Townville principal says she recognized school shooter as ex-pupil

FILE - This Oct. 5, 2016 file photo shows Dale Hall, dressed as Superman, next to the casket for his brother, Jacob Hall at Oakdale Baptist Church on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Townville, S.C. A teenager charged with killing his father at their home and a first-grader on a school playground said he kissed his bunny Floppy and three dogs goodbye after shooting his father and then headed to the school to resume shooting, according to the boy's videotaped statement played in court Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (Ken Ruinard/The Independent-Mail via AP, Pool)

The horror felt by the principal of a South Carolina elementary school when someone began firing at her students on the playground became even worse when she recognized the shooter as a former student.

"He's been here. He knows where our kids are. He knows how we drill," Townville Elementary School Principal Denise Frederick testified on Tuesday.

Media outlets reported that Frederick took the stand at a hearing to determine if the teen will be tried as a juvenile or adult for two counts of murder — one for the shooting of his father in their home, and another for the first-grader killed at the school.

The teen, who turned 14 just weeks before the shootings in September 2016, gave up without going inside the school. In an interview with investigators played in court Monday, he said he loaded the wrong ammunition into the gun, and it jammed each time he fired at the school playground.

He said he thanked God for the gun jams, saying it prevented him from shooting more people.

Jacob Hall, 6, was shot in the leg and bled to death. A teacher was wounded in the shoulder and another student was hurt, but both survived.

Teaching assistant Pamela Sanchez also took the stand on Tuesday and described what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting.

She said the students were on their way out to recess when she heard a truck, yelling, and three gunshots. She then described the horrific moments she realized student Jacob Hall was injured.

"I told him to hold on, and I picked him up because I knew I had to get him out of the room," Sanchez said in court. "I set him down in the hallway, and I said, 'Baby, I'm coming back. I'm not leaving you.'"

"Jacob was laying there lifeless and there was blood all around him," she added.

Jamie Brock, the firefighter who stopped the alleged shooter, recalled in court the moments he physically detained the teen.

"I told him to freeze...I put my knee on the back on his neck," Brock said.

"I asked him, 'Why did you do this?' And he said, 'I don't believe in God anymore'," he added.

Prosecutors want the teen tried as an adult, where he could face decades in prison if convicted. His attorneys want him tried as a juvenile, where he could be held only until his 21st birthday if found guilty.

The Associated Press is not using the defendant's name while he remains in the juvenile court system.

The teen's lawyers asked Frederick what she knew about his chaotic home life. He told investigators his father was a drunk who had loud arguments with his mother and tried to fight him. He said he spent most of his time locked in his room, posting to social media or petting his bunny.

Don Smith, a lawyer assigned to be the teen's guardian, suggested in questions Monday that the teen's father might have had him kill chickens that weren't growing fast enough at the family's home. School officials did not know, and the guardian Smith did not elaborate.

The shooting forever changed Townville Elementary School, Frederick said, recalling a school event where a balloon popped, bringing back horrible memories for dozens.

"Our kids ask us: 'Is he coming back? Is he going to hurt us again?'" Frederick said.

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