Shooting suspect's family: We still love him

Posted at 3:48 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 17:14:19-05

MADISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Family members of the teen accused of opening fire and injuring four students at Madison Jr./Sr. High School Monday said they are "devastated."

"We pray for the immediate recovery of the injured students and for the healing of the entire community," James Austin Hancock's family said in a prepared statement. "Our family has lived in this community our entire lives and we never expected anyone to experience the event that occurred on Monday, and we certainly did not expect that one of our family members would be involved.

"We are praying for everyone involved, including Austin whom we still deeply love. Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for all of the support that has been shown our family and community."

Hancock, 14, was arrested Monday and, if tried as an adult, will face two counts of attempted murder, two counts of felonious assault, inducing panic and making terrorist threats, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said. 

Hancock denied those charges in Butler County Juvenile Court Tuesday, which is the juvenile court equivalent of a not guilty plea. Hancock was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victims, and a pretrial date will be set for April. 

Four teens are recovering after the shooting, which happened inside the school's cafeteria during lunchtime Monday.

Cameron Smith, 15, and Cooper Caffrey, 14, were taken to Miami Valley Hospital after they were shot. Dr. Peter Ekeh, the hospital's trauma director, said one of them was shot just one time, and the other was shot multiple times. Neither needed surgery Monday, and both are in stable condition.

According to Madison Local Schools, both boys were "doing very well and are in very high spirits."

"Cameron is a great kid, junior high student, and he will make a full recovery," boys basketball coach Jeff Smith said.

Two other students, Brant Murray and Katherine Doucette, both 14, were injured by flying shrapnel or while trying to get out of the way, authorities said. Doucette later posted on Facebook that a bullet grazed her; the injury wasn't serious, she wrote.

PHOTOS: Aftermath of high school shooting

Deputies are still investigating the shooting.

James Austin Hancock. Image courtesy WHIO/Facebook

Caffrey and Hancock are both Madison wrestlers.

Aleeanna Carpenter, 14, said if Hancock was troubled, he didn't show it.

"We all walked into the lunchroom," Carpenter said. "Austin was perfectly happy. We were all laughing and giggling and talking about stuff."

Carpenter was sitting at a table with Hancock and two other friends, she said. One of them made a comment about "having a problem" with Smith, Carpenter said, and Hancock asked if he should shoot Smith. Hancock told the group he had a gun, Carpenter said, but she didn't see it until he had it in his hand.

Then, she said, Hancock opened fire. Carpenter recalled hearing five to seven shots.

"It was a black gun," she said. "He pulled it out, and it was the loudest shot ever. And I just saw the bullets like slowly fall by my face."

Carpenter froze with shock, she said, running only when Hancock fled the cafeteria.

Listen to a 911 call from the school:

Hancock was taken into custody on school grounds shortly after running out of the building, the sheriff said. He said the teen used a .380-caliber, semi-automatic firearm.

"He ran from school, threw the weapon down and we retrieved the weapon," Jones said. "Where the weapon came from is a question (we're) trying to answer."

TIMELINE: Monday's events at Madison Jr./Sr. High School

The sheriff also said investigators believe they know a possible motive for the shooting, but they would not release it right away.

Butler County deputies stand outside Madison Jr./Sr. High School. Photo courtesy Journal-News

Carpenter said she wasn't aware of Hancock being bullied, but indicated that he'd recently broken up with a girlfriend. Wrestling teammate Jordan Eslick said he was shocked to hear Hancock was involved.

"It didn't seem like anything was wrong with him," Eslick said.

The last time someone opened fire in an area school was when a 17-year-old La Salle High School student walked into a classroom and attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head.