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Charge now murder in Pine Bluff school shooting

Prosecutors raise stakes after victim dies by Joseph Flaherty | March 6, 2021 at 7:34 a.m.

The charge for the teenage suspect accused of shooting another teen Monday at Pine Bluff's Watson Chapel Junior High School was upgraded Friday from first-degree battery to capital murder after the victim's death.

Thomas Quarles, 15, appeared Friday morning before Jefferson County District Judge Kim Bridgforth for the second time this week, as a Jefferson County prosecutor, Will Jones, informed the judge via teleconference that authorities will seek a capital murder charge in the death of 15-year-old Daylon Burnett.

Jones told the judge the rest of the facts in the case remain the same.

Quarles will be held without bail.

Quarles appeared before Bridgforth on Wednesday for an initial probable-cause hearing after his arrest Monday near the school. During that hearing, Bridgforth granted Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter's request that Quarles be held in lieu of $1 million bail on a first-degree battery charge.

Burnett died from his injuries later Wednesday while receiving medical care at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.

Both Burnett and Quarles were students at the junior high school.

When reached by email Friday and asked if Quarles will ultimately be charged as an adult, Hunter wrote, "I will not make that decision until I get the investigative file from the police department."

Watson Chapel Junior High School entered an active-shooter protocol during the incident.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, when officers arrived at the school just after 10 a.m. Monday, a school nurse was administering aid to Burnett and applying pressure to the back of his head in a hallway by the library where the shooting occurred.

Shortly after the shooting, Quarles was found crouching by a house in the school's neighborhood and was arrested by a canine team from the Arkansas Department of Corrections. A black Ruger LCP handgun was found in his pocket, authorities said.

At a news conference after the shooting Monday, Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said officials believed the incident was targeted, as opposed to a random act.

The junior high school spent Tuesday and Wednesday conducting classes virtually after the shooting, and reopened for in-person classes Thursday.

Back-to-back snowstorms in February had forced classes at Watson Chapel Junior High School to go online for a long stretch. Students had just returned for in-person instruction Monday when the shooting occurred.


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