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Arizona teenager who brought AR-15 to school had ‘lightning link’ device to make weapon fully automatic, court doctors say

The 15-year-old accused of bringing an AR-15 to his Phoenix high school last week also allegedly possessed a device that would allow the weapon to function as a fully automatic machine gun, according to court documents obtained exclusively by NBC News. .

The boy allegedly brought the device – known as a “lightning link” – along with a disassembled AR-15 and ammunition to Bostrom High School on Friday, according to the probable cause statement. The AR-15 was disassembled into an upper and lower receiver, the two main parts of the gun, according to the probable cause statement.

“When you combine the upper receiver, lower receiver, and lightning link, they create a prohibited weapon,” he says. An AR-15 is normally a semi-automatic weapon, but adding the lightning link would make it fully automatic, meaning it could fire continuously without the shooter having to. repeatedly press the trigger.

Bostrom High School in Phoenix. KPNXName

The boy – who was arrested on four counts and remains in custody – denied owning the AR-15 and told authorities ‘he had it for someone’, the case statement says. likely.

He told police he received the gun the same day while on school grounds and “denied knowledge that the gun could function as a machine gun when the lightning link was inserted into the rifle,” according to the probable cause statement.

Detained by principal, live ammunition, incriminating Instagram posts

Court documents provide new details about the disturbing allegations against the boy, who NBC News is not naming because he is underage.

Police were called to the Phoenix campus just after 12:45 p.m. Friday when they received reports from unidentified sources “that a student may be in possession of a firearm” and that officials placed the school under lock and key while they detained the student in the main office.

When police arrived shortly before 1 p.m., they found the boy in the main office talking to the principal and deputy principal, the probable cause document states. The boy allegedly insulted the police and moved his hands to his belt, prompting officers to handcuff him and place him under arrest.

Police allegedly found the flash link in the boy’s backpack along with a lower receiver for the rifle with a fully loaded magazine, extra ammunition and gun-related accessories, it says. The upper receiver was found concealed inside the boy’s sweatpants “with the barrel facing upwards toward the officers” and a live round inside the chamber, according to the document.

After the boy was arrested, police assembled the parts of the AR-15 and found it “successfully tested as a functional firearm,” the probable cause statement said.

And after police obtained a search warrant for the boy’s laptop, they allegedly found Instagram messages between the boy and another minor negotiating the sale of a gun, the probable cause statement says. It is unclear if the other minor was also a student at the school or if they were talking about the gun the boy allegedly brought to school.

The boy denied the conversation on Instagram and told police he was selling gloves, the statement said. No other minors have been detained in connection with the incident, according to Phoenix Police Communications Director Donna Rossi.

He was arrested on charges of being a minor in possession of a firearm; make own or sell a deadly weapon; disorderly conduct with a weapon; and interfering with an educational institution, according to the Juvenile Arrest Worksheet.

The detention order, filed with the Maricopa County Superior Court Juvenile Department, says the boy must remain in custody and the court has found he is likely to harm himself or others. others, and that his or her “guardians are unable to control, supervise or parent the minor in a home environment, despite the guardian’s best efforts to do so”, and that “the minor requires stabilization and structure in a out-of-home placement framework.

The boy is due in court with a parent on June 12 for a pre-trial, the document says. He made his first court appearance on Saturday, according to a youth court spokesperson.

It was not immediately clear how and when the Phoenix boy allegedly obtained the weapon, whether it was assembled or disassembled at the time he obtained it, and whether the weapon was disassembled in order to allegedly be brought to campus. .

Rossi said the department’s specialized firearms crime unit was working to trace the source of the weapon and ammunition, and that there was currently “no indication” that the weapon could be classified as a ghost gun, an untraceable weapon assembled by parts often purchased online.

The court documents also did not provide any additional context about where or how the miner obtained the lightning link, a small piece of metal resembling a bent key that can be slipped into the trigger mechanism of the device. firearm to allow continuous firing by holding down the trigger. Although they have been regulated since 1986, law enforcement officials have said there are other ways to mimic the device to circumvent regulations.

A Maricopa County Attorney’s Office official previously said the office “does not comment on juvenile cases” and could not be immediately reached Thursday.

Representatives for the Phoenix Union High School District could not immediately be reached.

“As always, the safety and well-being of our staff, students and visitors remains our top priority, and we will work with law enforcement as they continue to investigate,” a statement said. previous statement from the district.

Parents were ‘in shock’, mum says

The boy’s mother, who asked not to be identified, told NBC News that she and her husband “don’t know where he got the gun from.” She said her son had ADHD and described him as “a little guy, he’s easily influenced, he wants to fit in”. She said she was unaware of the allegation that he possessed a device to make the weapon fully automatic.

The mother said no one in her immediate family owned guns and her son had never shown an interest in guns and had no criminal history, adding that she and her husband were “in shock” when they heard the allegations he was facing.

“It was your typical Friday morning, we were talking about vacation for the summer,” she said.

“Suddenly, later in the afternoon, I get a call saying he was taken away by the police regarding a gun he had on campus,” she said.

She added that her son does not have a lawyer and is entitled to one phone call a day while in detention.

“We’re just going with the flow, so far so good,” she said.

The boy’s father could not be immediately reached on Thursday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear whether the boy’s parents could face charges in relation to the incident. Rossi said it would be “part of the investigation”. The Maricopa County District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to questions.

Growing calls to regulate AR-15s

The alleged incident also raises questions about how a minor could allegedly obtain a potentially deadly weapon that has become a growing source of controversy – and death – in American life.

The AR-15 has been the weapon behind a dozen of the 21 deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 2006, including the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 people and the mass shooting of 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 26.

Arizona prohibits minors from buying or owning a gun without the written consent of a parent or guardian, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit gun advocacy group. non-profit. The state does not ban adults from owning semi-automatic rifles, but it does ban machine guns and reserve stocks, according to the Giffords Law Center. It also prohibits firearms on school grounds except by those authorized to carry them or use in approved school programs.

An automatic weapon is defined as “any type of weapon that fires two or more rounds with a single trigger pull,” said Rich Marianos, retired deputy director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons. fire and explosives. The National Firearms Act 1934 requires anyone who owns a fully automatic weapon to register and pay an annual tax on it. Laws that have since been passed have sought to further regulate the importation or manufacture of these weapons as well as devices that could make them fully automatic.

The incident in Phoenix came just days after an 18-year-old shooter in New Mexico used three weapons – including an AR-15 – to kill three elderly women: Shirley Voita, 79, Melody Ivie, 73 and his mother Gwendolyn Schofield, 97. The shooter was killed by police on Monday following his murderous rampage.

As mass shootings have increased, calls have intensified to impose restrictions on sales of semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, which was originally created for military use and is now copied by a variety of manufacturers under different names.

With their ability to fire bullets at rapid velocity, AR-15s are known to inflict significant damage to the human body and are more likely to be lethal than other firearms.

Washington state banned semi-automatic rifles last month, becoming the ninth state, along with Washington, DC, to enact such a ban. President Joe Biden has called for a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons in light of the rise in killings.

But so far, such a ban has failed to pass Congress.

“You’re looking at the barrel of a weapon of war – it’s not a slingshot, it’s not a pellet gun, it’s not a knife,” said Marianos, the former deputy director of the ‘ATF. “Where is the responsibility? There are not any.”


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