Magruder Student Sentenced to 18 Years for Shooting Classmate

Magruder High School student Steven O. Alston Jr. was sentenced to 18 years in prison for shooting fellow classmate Deandre Thomas on Jan. 21. Alston, who was 17 at the time, previously pled guilty to attempted murder in the first degree.

During an emotion 90-minute courtroom hearing, Thomas’ mother talked about the pain her son and her entire family continue to endure. Two Magruder teachers described Alston’s learning and cognitive disabilities, and Alston’s attorney read a statement written by the now-18-year-old, who has been in prison since the shooting.

“First, I want to say I’m sorry,” attorney David Felson read from a statement written by Alston. Felson said that the teenager was too nervous to read it himself.

“I hope Deandre and his family can understand and forgive me,” he wrote. “I was frightened and didn’t know what to do.” He added, “I was lost,” and made “a bad decision.”┬áHe also apologized to the school and his mother, who sat quietly in the courtroom throughout the proceedings.

According to State’s Attorney Donna Fenton, prior to the shooting, Alston ordered parts of a ghost gun that he assembled and photographed himself displaying. The day of the shooting, he went to the school bathroom after arranging to fight with Thomas but immediately pulled out the gun. Thomas wrestled to get the gun away.

Steven Alston Jr.

“He went in there with a loaded handgun and shot the victim,” Fenton said. “This defendant stepped back, pointed the gun and point black shot him in the pelvic area.”

After firing, Alston exited the bathroom, even though Thomas was bleeding heavily, and began skipping down the hall. He went to a classroom, where he disassembled the gun and sat calmly until Montgomery County police entered the room and arrested him.

A security guard saw students running from the bathroom, so he entered. Together with the school nurse, he propped Thomas’ leg up over a trashcan to help stem the bleeding.

“He almost died that day,” Fenton said of the then 15-year-old Thomas. Since the shooting, Thomas had 10 surgeries and continues to receive physical and emotional support.

According to his mother, “January 21 shattered my entire world, my world and my families’. It has been emotional torture to this day.”

Her son lost three-and-a-half liters of blood. “They were putting blood in, and it was coming right out,” Karen Thomas said. Her son remained on life support for three weeks and spent two months in the hospital.

State’s Attorney John McCarthy and Karen Thomas, victim’s mother

At one point, Deandre Thomas asked his mother if he would live, and she had to lie to her son that things would be okay, because she said at that time, she really didn’t know if he would survive.

At times, Karen Thomas looked directly at Alston as she spoke of her and her son’s pain.

Alston’s lawyer said the young man has accepted responsibility. However, Felson urged the court to keep in mind that he has had no interaction with police prior to this incident and that he has difficulty in reading and math.

He said Alston felt bullied and scared. “It is fairly clear that Steven was bullied, harassed and terrorized” at Magruder. Students even came to his home at home point and only left when Alston’s mother threatened to call the police.

All this “left Steven in an impossible situation,” Felson said. “We know the victim wanted to kick Steven’s ass,” he said, adding, “None of this justifies Steven’s actions.”

But Alexander Bush, the Thomas family attorney, said it was “disgusting” to make it seem that Thomas was responsible for all the bullying and problems Alston was having and that the defense was attempting to blame the victim.

Resource teacher Stephanie Williams called Alston a quiet, polite student. He was “very sweet, kind, responsible.”

His 11th grade world history teacher, Chris Gamble, said Alston had “academic difficulties” and said very little. He described Alston as respectful and motivated to pass his class.

In handing down his sentence, Circuit Court Judge David Boynton admonished Alston for being the first student to ever shoot another inside a Montgomery County Public School. “Schools are supposed to be a safe haven,” he said.

He stressed that Thomas could have died, “really should have died,” adding, “His life will be forever changed.”

Boynton continued, “What you did is not tolerable” and could carry a sentence of life in prison. Instead, the judge sentenced Alston to 40 years with all but 18 suspended and five years of probation following his release.

He recommended that Alston serve his time in the Patuxent Youth Diversion Program, where he will receive help.

 

 

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