Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By: Associated Press
MONROE, La. - A teen convicted in the Jena Six beating case shot himself in the chest and was taken to the hospital Monday, days after his arrest on a shoplifting charge, police said.
Mychal Bell's wound isn't life threatening, said Monroe Police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten. The 18-year-old used a .22-caliber firearm in the shooting around 7:40 p.m., she said.
Wooten believes Bell was upset over media coverage of the arrest last week.
"I think he was upset over the incident ... and didn't want to be in the news again," she said.
Bell was one of a group of black teenagers who once faced attempted murder charges in the 2006 beating of a white classmate at Jena High School. The charges for all of the defendants were reduced.
The severity of the original charges brought widespread criticism and eventually led to more than 20,000 people converging in September 2007 on the tiny central Louisiana town of Jena for the largest civil rights march in decades.
Bell was in the news again after he was arrested on Dec. 24 and booked on charges of shoplifting, resisting arrest and simple assault, police said.
Police said Bell tried to steal several shirts and a pair of jeans from a department store and fled when a security guard and off-duty police officer tried to detain him. After they found him hiding under a car, Bell "swung his arms wildly" and one of his elbows struck the security guard with a glancing blow, according to a police report. He was freed on $1,300 bond.
Wooten said Bell was taken to a hospital in Monroe, where a nursing supervisor wouldn't release his condition. Wooten didn't have further details on the shooting.
One of Bell's attorneys in the assault case didn't immediately return a call Monday seeking comment on the shoplifting case.
In the Jena case, Bell eventually pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery.
Bell, the only one of the six who has been tried, has been living in a foster home in Monroe and attending school.
Here's Another Version Of The Story:
December 30, 2008
Mychal Bell, center, one of the Jena Six, appears with attorneys Carol Powell Lexing, left, and Louis Scott leaves LaSalle Parish Courthouse in Jena, La., Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007. Bell, whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate prompted a massive civil rights protest here was released on bail Thursday. His release came hours after a prosecutor confirmed that he will no longer seek an adult trial for the teen.(AP Photo By Alex Brandon)
Louisiana Gannett News
MONROE -- Monroe police confirmed late Monday that Jena Six figure Mychal Bell was taken to LSU Health Sciences Center in Monroe with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Sgt. Cassandra Wooten said Bell apparently shot himself in the chest about 7:40 p.m. at his home with a .22 caliber weapon. She described his injury as not life-threatening.
Asked if Bell gave a reason for the self-inflicted wound, Wooten said, "he said he couldn't take it anymore; he was back in the media again."
Bell, 18, who lists his address as 109 Grayling Lane, Monroe, is free on bond following a Christmas Eve arrest on multiple charges, including shoplifting, resisting arrest and simple battery, related to an incident at Dillard's in Pecanland Mall in Monroe.
Bell was arrested less than one month after he completed a sentence for his role in the beating of a fellow classmate, Justin Barker, at Jena High School in 2006. The high school incident garnered national attention and led to a protest in the rural LaSalle Parish town that was attended by thousands.
In the Monroe incident, police said Bell and an unidentified male were spotted Wednesday by store security after they placed $370 worth of merchandise in a Dillard's shopping bag.
After the two separated, Bell left the store, was followed by a security officer and began running through the parking lot.
Police said Bell was discovered under a vehicle in the Sears parking lot.
Lt. Jeff Harris said Bell began "swinging his arms wildly" and delivered a glancing blow to the security officer with his elbow.
Bell was booked into Richwood Correctional Center and released on $1,300 bond. He will be arraigned at a later date. Each of the charges carries a possible penalty of up to six months in jail.
Louis Scott, a lawyer who has represented Bell in the past, said that preconceived notions on the part of Dillard's employees may have played a role in Bell's arrest.
"Dillard's has a tradition of being overly suspicious of young black males," Scott said.
Scott said that personal and court experiences have led him to that conclusion. "He should at least have the presumption of innocence," he said.
Dillard's has been accused of racial profiling in lawsuits in Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia.
A Dillard's store manager in Monroe referred requests for comment to Roger Williams in the company's Little Rock, Ark., office.
A spokesperson who answered the telephone in Williams' office said he would have no comment on the matter.
Scott has not been contacted to represent Bell on the new charges.
"I am predicting that once all the facts are established, he probably will not be guilty," Scott said. "There has been more put on this young man than anybody can bear -- people trying to provoke him, trying to make him react.
"If he was going to break the law, I believe he would have done it before."
Scott, Bob Noel and Carol Powell Lexing of Monroe represented Bell when he pleaded guilty to second-degree battery for his role in the attack on Jena High School student Justin Barker in December 2006.
Bell was sentenced to 18 months in the custody of the Office of Youth Development for his part in the crime. Bell also served a sentence for three previous unnamed crimes.
Because he was a juvenile when he pleaded guilty to the previous crimes, Scott said Bell is not considered to have a criminal record.
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To listen to the entire Attorney Louis Scott and Marcus Jones interviews as well as others on this case please visit the following link on-line:
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