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Tyon Wells at a court appearance in March 2018. A judge refused to move the case to juvenile court, citing Wells’ gang ties and experience handling guns.

Glance at 14-year-old Tyon Wells and you see a skinny teen with an even skimpier juvenile record.

Wells’ only official criminal blemish was a juvenile diversion case over a meltdown on a school bus.

But dig into school records, prosecutors say, and you see a child on the verge of an explosion.

Defiant behavior at school, from third grade on. Gang initiation at age 12. Chronic marijuana smoking. Repeated expulsions.

All of that preceded a February shooting in which Wells now stands accused of killing a 17-year-old during a marijuana deal.

Deputy Douglas County Attorney Jim Masteller argues that Wells should be tried in adult court for second-degree murder in the February shooting death of Zachary Parker, 17, near 25th Street and Crown Point Avenue.

Meanwhile, Wells’ attorney, Kevin Ryan, argues that Wells’ second-degree murder charges ought to be moved to juvenile court — saying he isn’t a lost cause and can receive adequate treatment until he turns 19, the age at which juvenile court jurisdiction ends in Nebraska.

“It’s just a tragedy all the way around,” Ryan said.

Such tragedies are rare but not unprecedented. A 12-year-old was charged in the shooting death of a man in a Miller Park drug deal in June 2015; his case went to juvenile court. But another 14-year-old, Jordan Goodwin — convicted of killing a 6-year-old girl in 2007 after firing into a car — was tried in adult court and is serving 30 years in prison.

Judge Shelly Stratman will decide.

The record laid out in court Thursday showed a tumultuous childhood. Wells grew up without a father in his life.

According to prosecutors:

In third grade, Wells was found roaming the grounds of his elementary school when he should have been in class. After a security officer told him to get back to class, he called her a “ho,” “b----” and a racial epithet.

In fourth grade, he screamed and punched a wall at school. In fifth grade, he was accused of slapping a child who tattled on him. In sixth grade, he was accused in an assault on his basketball coach. Wells lunged at the coach, trying to hit him — and it took several people to restrain him. At one point, he stood on chairs, screaming at the coach.

Later in sixth grade, in April 2016, he was causing a commotion in the school cafeteria. Officials ordered everyone to be quiet before they would allow people to move forward in the line for food. Wells flipped over a 250-pound supply cart, then kept flipping it over, until school officials restrained him.

In March 2017, he wanted off of a school bus. The driver wouldn’t allow him to get off; it wasn’t his exit. He began kicking and punching the door and screaming vulgarities at her, standing over her with clenched fists. He was expelled from Monroe Middle School over that incident. He went to Parrish, the Omaha Public Schools’ alternative school, where he also was expelled.

This school year, he attended McMillan Middle School. Officials recorded 19 incidents of misbehavior from September until he was arrested in February in this shooting.

On his 12th birthday, he was given a marijuana joint. Within months, he smoked pot so routinely that a psychologist declared him addicted.

Also at age 12, Wells joined a gang — the Flatland Bloods. He was jumped into the gang — a form of initiation in which other gang members beat him up. He became an active member.

Authorities don’t believe this shooting was gang-related; Masteller alleges that it was Wells’ idea alone.

On Feb. 25, Wells and two other teens went to meet Parker and others who were known to sell pot.

Parker knew one of the teens — the prospective buyer — and planned to sell him a half-ounce of pot for $110. However, Parker, sitting in the back seat of a car, didn’t know Wells or the other teen — so Parker suggested that he and the buyer do the deal the next day.

That’s when Wells pulled out a gun, authorities allege. Parker called out for the driver to take off — and the gunman fired three times into the car, killing Parker and injuring the driver, Devon Darnell, 17.

The two teens with Wells said they had no idea he would pull a gun, Masteller said.

Ryan and prosecutors squared off over the best way to treat Wells. A child psychologist, Colleen Conoley, diagnosed Wells with oppositional defiant disorder — defined as a persistent pattern of anger toward authority figures. She recommended that his case be sent to juvenile court and that he be placed in a secure facility.

Prosecutors said the justice system needs more time than Wells would spend in the juvenile detention.

“Only having a few years to address all of his issues” is a major concern, said Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle. “Especially when you look at the violent nature of this offense in particular, and his background.”

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Reporter - Courts

Todd Cooper covers courts, lawyers, trials, legal issues, the justice system and government wrongdoing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @CooperonCourts. Phone: 402-444-1275.

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