A 16-year-old pupil teased by his California classmates for his red hair, social awkwardness and bookish appearance has been charged as an adult for allegedly wounding a classmate with a shotgun and trying to target another.
Bryan Oliver pleaded not guilty to two counts of premeditated attempted murder and three counts of assault with a firearm in the attack last Thursday at Taft Union High School that left another 16-year-old wounded.
"The severity of the actions, the injuries to the victim, that a firearm was used. Those are the things we considered," said Mark Pafford, the chief deputy district attorney of Kern County.
The potential penalty for just one count of premeditated attempted murder with a firearm is 32 years to life, Mr Pafford said. If he had been charged as a juvenile and convicted, he would be held until his 23rd birthday.
Oliver had been bullied by the two classmates he allegedly targeted, according to a witness who knows the teenager.
"They called him a 'ginger' and said gingers don't have souls," said Morgan Alldredge, a friend of both Oliver and one of the targets, who was in the classroom during the shooting. "I was his friend. I don't know why people picked on him. He was misunderstood."
A next-door-neighbour whose son tutored Oliver in college prep classes described him as a "genius" who was relentlessly bullied by other students in the remote San Joaquin Valley town surrounded by tumbleweed-covered oil fields. Others said he further ostracised himself by making inappropriate statements, almost for shock value.
Last Thursday morning, witnesses say, Oliver walked into a science classroom just as his classmates were finishing an oceanography test and quickly fired one round from a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun, striking a 16-year-old student athlete in the chest. He sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
A second round was fired at students trying to flee, but no-one was struck. Morgan said Oliver then spoke his first words: "All I want is Jacob," referring to Morgan's ex-boyfriend, whom she said had teased the suspect in the past.
Investigators have declined to comment on allegations made by many students that Oliver had been suspended from the school last year for allegedly making a hit list of students he wished to harm.