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Judge keeps 16-year-old in custody in paintball shooting spree

A Henderson teenager who participated in a paintball shooting spree must remain in custody while awaiting his sentencing hearing, a Juvenile Court judge ruled Tuesday.

Christian Melton, 16, appeared to fight back tears as he stood in the courtroom alongside his parents and lawyer. His mother held his hand.

Defense attorney Mark Anderson described the teenager as "a really good kid who did some bad things."

"We understand that the charges and Christian’s actions are definitely serious ones, but there are things to be balanced against that," the lawyer told Judge William Voy.

Anderson noted that Melton’s 18-year-old co-defendant, Robert Lockwood, was released on his own recognizance last week.

"I think equity would suggest that Christian should also be given that opportunity," the lawyer argued.

Henderson police have arrested three teenagers, including Melton and Lockwood, in connection with eight incidents in late December in which people were shot with a paintball gun.

Two of the victims were shot in the eye.

Paintball is a game in which players seek to eliminate opponents by marking them with a water-soluble dye shot in capsules from air guns. Participants typically wear eye protection.

Melton and 17-year-old Aaron Briggs appeared Thursday before Juvenile Court Hearing Master Thomas Kurtz and admitted the allegations in two of the counts they faced: battery with substantial bodily harm, which is a felony, and battery, a misdemeanor. The counts involve all the victims.

Both juveniles denied firing the paintball gun at any of the victims.

Kurtz ordered both teens to remain in custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 31 before Voy, but Anderson requested Tuesday’s detention review hearing for his client.

The attorney stressed that Melton is the youngest of the three who face charges in the case. He said common sense suggests that the youngest followed the lead of the older participants.

Anderson also said Melton has strong family support and has been in trouble with the law only once before, four years ago, when he took money from a tip jar. The lawyer said Melton was attending classes at the College of Southern Nevada before his recent arrest and has expressed remorse for his involvement in the shootings.

Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Adams told Voy the teenager was not a passive participant in an isolated incident. She said he was driving his own car during several incidents.

In separate interviews with police, Lockwood and Briggs each said Melton came up with the idea of randomly shooting people with the paintball gun.

Records show that the shooting spree began on Dec. 19, when three people were shot, and ended on Dec. 28.

Lockwood admitted being present during a Dec. 26 incident at the Walmart on Lake Mead Parkway near Boulder Highway, but he said Melton shot the employee there. In that incident, a shopping cart attendant was shot in the eye and initially lost 75 percent of his vision in the wounded eye.

Adams called the attacks "senseless and violent."

She argued that Melton poses a risk to the community and should be detained.

In denying Anderson’s request for Melton’s release, Voy said he might have viewed the lawyer’s arguments differently had the teenager not already admitted his involvement in the crimes.

Melton’s parents, Donald and Susan, declined to comment after the hearing.

Lockwood appeared Thursday before Henderson Justice of the Peace Stephen George, who released him on his own recognizance with intensive supervision pending a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 13.

A Clark County School District spokesman said Lockwood is enrolled at Foothill High School in Henderson. The spokesman said records show that Briggs and Melton attended Foothill until October, when they were withdrawn.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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