ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – After six hours of testimony from friends and family of both the shooter and his two victims, Mason Campbell was given the maximum sentence.
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Tears, frustration and the lingering questions of how and why filled a courtroom Wednesday overwhelmed with emotion.
“It was a methodical plan,” the prosecutor, Matt Chandler said.
That’s how prosecutors paint what happened January 14, 2014 at the Berrendo Middle School in Roswell. Where then12-year-old Campbell,armed with a modified shotgun, opened fire in the school’s gym, hitting two students, Kendal Sanders and Nathaniel Tavarez.
During the hearing, Chandler shared 911 calls from parents and school staff from the day of the shooting in January. As he shared them, many people in the courtroom cried, including Tavarez and Sanders, the two students who were injured that day. Both sustained serious injuries.
New Mexico State Police officer Gary Smith said he took Campbell into custody that day and never thought the shooter would be a child, and someone he knows.
Following Smith, an emotional Berrendo Middle School security guard said he “never imagined something like this would happen in Roswell.”
During the hearing, a notebook was presented that Campbell allegedly wrote in before the shooting. The notebook detailed a plan to get revenge on a student who had bullied Campbell and other students.
Campbell allegedly started writing the details in the notebook Jan. 10, four days before the shooting. He allegedly wrote that by the time someone read the notebook, he would likely be in jail.
The writings described Campbell wanting to target the student by using his father’s gun. When he couldn’t find the gun, he allegedly decided to stab the student.
The writings said Campbell changed his mind one more time, however. He found the gun, altered it, and allegedly wrote he wanted to take it to school and shoot different groups of people in the gym.
The shooting took place Jan. 14, following the last plan written in the notebook.
During the hearing, family and friends of Sanders detailed how her injuries affect her current health and her future. She still has 150 lead pellets in her body.
Tavarez’s mother also took the stand, sharing her experience following the shooting. She called the shooting a deliberate act of violence that caused her son to have several surgeries and ongoing pain. Tavarez’s father, sister and grandfather also took the stand.
Both Tavarez and Sanders also took the stand. In a statement Sanders prepared, she said she forgives Campbell, but wrote what he did to her will have lifelong effects. She cannot stay in the sun for long periods of time, play volleyball, and she now has lead poisoning.
Sanders has been in the hospital more than once since the shooting. She has scars and spots on her body, too, she wrote. In the statement, she said she wants Campbell to be in facility where he can get help until he’s 21.
An emotional Tavarez read his own statement, and in a soft voice explained he was determined to get better and fight to get well. At one point before a major surgery, he and his family were informed he may never see again. He said that was terrifying for his family, and after the surgery, he went to therapy frequently.
Tavarez, who now has some vision in his right eye, talked about the support he received during his recovery and how it gave him strength.
“I have conquered many things the doctors said I wouldn’t,” he said. “I have the best support system ever.”
After several hours spent talking about the shooting victims and their families, the defense took the stand to testify on Campbell’s behalf. Both his grandfather and father addressed the court.
Campbell also spoke for the first time in court and apologized to the victims.
“I am very sorry for my actions,” he said. “This is not what I meant to do. I am very sorry Kendal, Nathanial.”
Originally, Campbell did not enter a plea, but in May, Campbell changed his plea to no contest and apologized in court.