Teen pleads guilty to attempted murder in Magruder High shooting

A teen accused of shooting and nearly killing a classmate inside a bathroom at a Montgomery County, Maryland, high school in January pleaded guilty Monday to attempted murder.

Steven Alston Jr., who turned 18 in August, is accused of obtaining the parts and building a so-called “ghost gun,” which he used to shoot and critically-injure a 15-year-old student inside the Magruder High School bathroom on Jan. 21.

Police and prosecutors have said Alston met up with the other boy in a school bathroom to settle a dispute and then shot the boy in the pelvis after first pointing it at his head, before dismantling the gun and returning to a classroom as the school entered an hourslong lockdown.

In May, Judge David Boynton declined a defense attempt to have the case moved to juvenile court. “Mr. Alston displayed very adultlike behavior,” Boynton said at the time. Boynton was on the bench Monday, when the plea was entered.

The statutory maximum for attempted first-degree murder is life in prison.

According to sources familiar with the plea agreement, Montgomery County prosecutors will ask that Alston be sentenced to between 15 and 25 years, within the sentencing guidelines for a defendant without a prior conviction.

Prosecutors will request that Alston serve his time in the Patuxent Institution, as part of the Patuxent Youthful Offender Program.

Other students, police said, were in the bathroom at the time of the shooting, but officials said they never called police or notified teachers, even though they tweeted about it.

The incident also sparked debate about Montgomery County officials’ decision to remove school resource officers from county high schools in favor of “community engagement officers,” who aren’t stationed in schools and have more limited roles.

In charging documents, police said Alston told investigators after his arrest that he bought the 9 mm firearm on the internet and had a friend help him put it together.

According to charging documents, he told police he brought the gun to school because he was worried he was going to get jumped and that, once inside the bathroom, he only pulled the gun out because he didn’t want to fight and wanted to scare his classmate away.

Alston’s sentencing is set for Dec. 22.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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