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Heritage High School shooting suspect indicted by grand jury; plea hearing set for April 29

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Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 23:43:04-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The suspect in the September 2021 shooting at Heritage High School has been indicted by a grand jury.

A plea hearing for the 15-year-old Jacari Marques Taylor, a student at Heritage, is set for April 29 in Newport News Circuit Court. According to court documents, he will be tried as an adult, which is why his name is now unsealed.

He has been charged with one count of malicious wounding; one count of malicious assault: victim injured; two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, second offense; one count of possession of a firearm at a school; and one count of shooting/throwing into an occupied school.

The shooting happened on September 20.

Shariyah Render, 13, remembers that disturbing day like it was yesterday. Kids were seen scattering, making their way out to safety.

“We just seen a lot of kids just running around,” said Render. “We heard a lot of screaming. It was just crazy; it was like a movie. It was scary.”

Render stayed home from school that September morning when chaos erupted inside Heritage High School.

Her house sits directly behind the school where many of her friends go.

“I texted them to make sure they was okay,” Render said.

Two teens were shot: One of the victims, a 17-year-old boy, was shot in the side of face, and the other was a 17-year-old girl who was shot in the lower leg, police said, adding that neither sustained what are considered life-threatening injuries.

Two other students were hurt, with their injuries related to evacuating the school. Police said that these students' injuries were also not considered to be life-threatening.

According to court documents, surveillance footage from inside the school shows a fight between two males that resulted in the shooting.

Police were able to find the suspect after developing a description, receiving identifying information about him and receiving a number of tips from the community and school personnel.

Warrants detailed the suspect was caught on multiple cameras.

According to the warrants, authorities say detectives found a firearm in a trashcan on school property while following the path the shooter took when fleeing.

One search warrant states the suspect was clearly wearing an Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP) ankle bracelet at the time of the shooting and had a black backpack discarded along the way.

Another warrant says the 17-year-old boy who was shot multiple times stated he was leaving the school cafeteria when he got involved in a physical altercation with an unknown student, who pulled out a firearm and opened fire.

Meanwhile, the teenage girl who was shot stated she was walking down the hallway after lunch and heard gunshots when she was hit in the leg.

Court documents state that during Taylor's interview with police, Taylor admitted to being involved in the fight. The documents say Taylor said the other boy involved punched him in the face before he pulled out his gun.

Taylor admitted he continued to fire even after the victim tried to run away because he said, "I didn't think I hit him."

Taylor told police there were “one hundred something” people in the hallway at the time.

According to court documents, he threw the gun in the trashcan before running out of the school.

For students like Render and her friend, school will never be the same.

“At the end of the day, the person did what he did and hopefully he gets in trouble for it,” said Render’s friend who didn’t want to give her name. “I hope everybody who was a victim is okay.”

This is not Taylor’s first run-in with the law. Court documents say the teen was convicted of two felonies including malicious wounding and use of a firearm last March just a few months before the Heritage High shooting.

Related: Newport News School Board outlines plan to move forward after shooting at Heritage High

Since the shooting last fall, school leaders have ramped up random searches in classrooms and bookbags and increased the number of walk-thru metal detectors at the high school.