Judge to rule later this month whether teens charged in Holcom Park shootings will be tried as adults

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Lawrence police investigate at the scene of a double shooting on Friday, March 29, 2019, at Holcom Park, in the parking lot at 26th Street and Lawrence Avenue.

A judge will rule by the end of the month on whether two teens charged in a double shooting at Holcom Park will be tried as adults.

Judge Peggy Kittel said Tuesday in Douglas County District Court that she would provide a written ruling regarding the juvenile or adult status for Benson J. Edwards Jr., 17, and Sahavione K. Caraway, 17, both of Topeka, by Oct. 31.

At Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors argued that the crimes Edwards is accused of are severe enough to authorize the state to try him as an adult. Edwards and Caraway are each charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly shooting two teen brothers multiple times, plus two counts of aggravated robbery for allegedly stealing vaping cartridges and an iPhone from the victims, according to charging documents. Edwards also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Benson J. Edwards Jr.

Sahavione K. Caraway

“The state has serious concerns about (Edwards’ ability) to function safely in the community,” said Assistant District Attorney Bryant Barton.

But Edwards’ attorney Thomas Bath argued that the severity of the charges was a nonissue. He said he believed Edwards was not the one who pulled the trigger in the shooting, and that the charges against Edwards may therefore have been misapplied.

After the hearing, Kittel said her ruling would come later this month because the court still needed to hold a hearing for Caraway. That hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 11.

Prosecutors filed a motion on July 10 to try the two as adults. At a hearing in May, a judge had ordered both teens to remain in custody as the case proceeded.

The shooting was reported just before 4 p.m. March 29 at Holcom Park, located at 27th Street and Lawrence Avenue in southwest Lawrence.

The victims, 18-year-old Ulises Rojo and 16-year-old Daniel Rojo, were seriously injured.

Charging documents allege that Edwards used a .32-caliber Tanfoglio Giuseppe handgun in the incident, and that Caraway allegedly used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 –an assault-style rifle, according to features and photos of the model on the Smith & Wesson website.

According to a fundraising page for their medical expenses, the victims, both Lawrence High School students, are “recovering well.”

Contact Dylan Lysen

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