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Freeman School Shooter Hearing Continues In Spokane Court

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A Seattle child psychiatrist was the featured witness in a hearing Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. He evaluated the now 17-year-old boy accused of the fatal shooting at Freeman High School in 2017.

The result of the hearing will determine whether the teen will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

Dr. Richard Adler was on the stand the whole day.

Adler was hired by defense attorneys to evaluate the mental capabilities of the defendant, whom we’re not naming because he’s still a juvenile.

During the first round of interviews in February, 2018, Adler interviewed the young man and his parents. He administered a battery of tests and ordered other procedures, such as an MRI. He found the teen, who was 16 at the time, tested like an 11 or 12-year-old with a moderate learning disorder. He had academic and social problems, attention deficit disorder and trouble controlling his impulses. Adler says in his report that he believes the defendant suffered a traumatic brain injury due to lack of blood oxygen or other factors that came about during a caesarian birth.

Among other things, Adler ordered the young man be prescribed ritalin to combat his ADD.

Ten months later, Adler came back and administered another round of tests. The results, he says, show the teen has matured, both cognitively and emotionally.

If the defendant is tried and convicted in juvenile court, he could be released without restrictions when he turns 21. If convicted as an adult, he could be held until he’s 25.

Adler concluded, if the defendant went free at 21, he would be a low risk for future violent offenses.

But Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald challenged that, particularly the assertion about brain injury at birth. She also pointed to the teen’s statements to a sheriff’s detective hours after the shooting in which he understood the consequences of his actions. She said he also admitted lying to his parents and to a counselor about a variety of things.

Testimony will continue in Judge Michael Price’s court on Thursday.

Freeman High School student Sam Strahan was killed, three other students were hurt in the September 2017 shooting.