Patrick Harper might remain a suspect in a murder case in the eyes of North Las Vegas police, but his Mojave High School principal wants to welcome the 16-year-old back with open arms.
“We are asking Patrick to come back to school where he belongs,” Mojave principal Antonio Rael said. “He is absolutely wanted to come back by his teachers, his coaches, by his classmates and by me personally.”
Rael met with Harper and his parents Tuesday and asked the high school junior to return to Mojave as soon as possible. Harper and his parents said he was kicked out of school after he was arrested and charged with fatally shooting Andrea Lafon in early September. The district attorney’s office has since dropped the case.
Harper remains hesitant.
In a recent interview with the Review-Journal, the teenager said he is afraid to return to school after a classmate and others involved in a Sept. 5 drug deal gone bad pegged him as the gunman.
He was arrested and jailed for 12 days before evidence surfaced showing Harper’s involvement in the crime was nearly impossible.
The shooter who killed a 20-year-old woman during a marijuana deal earlier this month was wearing a white T-shirt, according to a North Las Vegas police report obtained by the Review-Journal.
Despite the fact Harper was wearing a dark gray T-shirt that night and had an alibi — security video showed Harper at an AM/PM 1.5 miles away from the scene of the shooting just minutes before it happened — North Las Vegas police as of Monday had not ruled the boy out as a suspect.
A police spokeswoman said Tuesday there were no updates in the case. The department has asked for the public’s patience as police investigate the case.
Harper has flatly denied he was involved in the shooting and has offered to take a lie detector test and a drug test to show he doesn’t smoke marijuana. Authorities have declined.
Harper, an athlete who played basketball and volleyball for Mojave, near Washburn Road and Goldfield Street, said he spends most of his time at home and the rest at the gym.
His posts on the social media website Facebook seems to support that his interests and activities revolve mostly around sports and family. He recently posted photos and wrote to his sister: “Today is my little sister’s birthday. Enjoy your birthday and don’t let anyone ruin it. Love you sister Happy Birthday.”
He has also written about school and his mother.
When asked what he hopes for the future, “I want to be an NBA player,” he said.
His social-media life appears to be a stark contrast to the five other teens who were named in a police report about the Sept. 5 shooting death, in which some of the teens blamed Harper.
One of the five posted about interactions with police in the past two months and asked if anyone wanted to buy “loud” — a slang term for marijuana. Photographs also show the teens flashing gang signs.
Harper’s lawyer, Kristina Wildeveld, has questioned the validity of the statements made by those involved in the drug deal and wondered whether they set Harper up, possibly to distract attention from themselves.
Before Sept. 5, Principal Rael, said he was acquainted with Harper because he was a two-sport athlete and had done volunteer work for Mojave.
Last summer Harper worked as a concession stand volunteer, raising money for the school. Harper worked side by side with Rael’s daughter who also attends Mojave, Rael said.
“As a principal, as a member of the community, as a dad with a daughter at the school, he’s the type of kid you want in your school,” Rael said.
Rael is hoping that asking Harper to return to Mojave will help erase the public images of him being arrested and charged with murder. “I’m saddened by the circumstances that Patrick had to go through. At the end of the day, I’m glad the justice system has worked. I’m glad he’s home where he belongs and hopefully coming back to the school where he belongs.”
Contact Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe. Contact Ricardo Torres at email@example.com or 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites.