Judge’s written ruling details why 2 teens will be charged as adults in Lawrence double shooting

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.

After a double shooting in broad daylight at a Lawrence park seriously injured two teen brothers, one of two teen co-defendants reportedly said he should have “just killed the two boys and be done with it,” according to court documents.

Sahavione K. Caraway, 17, and Benson J. Edwards Jr., now 18, are both charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated robbery in connection with the March 29, 2019, incident. Edwards also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Former Douglas County District Court Chief Judge Peggy Kittel, who retired Dec. 31, announced during a brief hearing on her last day that the alleged teen offenders should be prosecuted as adults. Prosecutors with the Douglas County district attorney’s office had filed motions to do so in July, and Kittel heard evidence to support the motions at hearings in the fall.

Her recently released written ruling supporting the decision sheds light on many details of the incident. Neither case has gone to trial, and the charges against the co-defendants have not been proved to a jury.

According to the ruling:

Caraway and Edwards arranged to purchase $100 worth of marijuana vape cartridges from a high school student. They met the two brothers, 18 and 16, shortly after school let out, in the parking lot of Lawrence’s Holcom Park at 2700 W. 27th St.

The 16-year-old testified that he and his brother were in a pickup truck when Edwards approached them, began the drug transaction and then turned and nodded to Caraway, who was seated in a nearby car, according to the ruling. Caraway then allegedly got out of the car and approached the brothers with a rifle, which the charging document in his case alleges was a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 — an assault-style rifle.

Sahavione K. Caraway

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Benson J. Edwards Jr., pictured in December 2019

The ruling says that the co-defendants then proceeded to rob the brothers, and when the brothers realized what was happening, the 18-year-old put the truck in reverse to get away. Then, the ruling states, Caraway shot the driver, who went unconscious, and the truck rolled backward through the parking lot until it hit a sign.

The co-defendants then got back in their car and drove up to the truck; Caraway got out again and told the brothers, “Give me (expletive) everything or I’ll kill you,” the ruling says.

The 18-year-old was shot in the heart and lung; the 16-year-old was shot in the arm and leg. Both required surgery, and the 16-year-old has a plate holding his arm together, had a skin graft and was in a wheelchair for three months after surgery on his kneecap, according to the ruling.

Officers recovered nine spent bullet casings from the scene, according to the ruling, but it is not clear from the ruling whether all the casings came from the same weapon. The brothers were unarmed and “made no threatening moves during the events,” the ruling states. A man who lived nearby reportedly took a photo of Caraway holding the rifle toward the brothers at point-blank range.

Police apprehended the co-defendants — who were both living at Topeka addresses at the time, though Edwards attended Lawrence High School from August 2016 through January 2019 — as they were heading out of Lawrence and onto Interstate 70 shortly after the incident.

At that time, the ruling says, officers found a handgun in the vehicle as well as a rifle bearing Caraway’s fingerprints. Edwards was in possession of a .32-caliber Tanfoglio Giuseppe handgun, the charging document in his case alleges.

Both co-defendants were taken to the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center. Both remained there until Edwards was transported to the adult jail on Dec. 22, his 18th birthday. Caraway will turn 18 on Sunday.

On April 7, Caraway was reportedly sent for a “cool down” by JDC staff. The ruling states that he told a staff member that he should have “just killed the two boys and be done with it.”

“This juvenile blamed God for letting all this happen after he had prayed to God to keep him safe during the robbery,” the ruling states. “This offender stated God put him in this situation where he had to shoot the victims.”

In Edwards’ case, Kittel’s ruling cites previous adjudications — the juvenile equivalent of convictions — for criminal damage to property and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. He had been released from probation Feb. 28, 2019, just a month before the incident at Holcom Park.

“This juvenile was in trouble with his father for not attending school and hanging out with known offenders,” the ruling states. “This offender was the smartest juvenile his probation officer ever supervised, was charismatic, a leader and a strategic thinker. This offender does not have impulse control according to the probation officer that worked with him for 20 months up to February 2019.”

For both co-defendants, the longest sentences they could face under juvenile jurisdiction would be up to age 22 1/2; also, the ruling states, juveniles may earn up to 30% good time credit, and time served in detention could be counted toward any sentence imposed. If prosecuted as adults, any of their pending charges would result in presumptive prison sentences, the ruling states.

Kittel wrote about several factors taken into consideration, among them the seriousness of the injuries to the two victims; the time and location of the shooting, a neighborhood park shortly after school let out, and the “enormous safety risk” it posed to the general community; the crimes being done “in a particularly violent manner” with close-range shots fired; premeditation of the robbery; whether there are facilities or programs available to rehabilitate the co-defendants before the court’s jurisdiction expired; and “the lack of any evidence that there was any reasonable explanation as to why this escalated into a shooting.”

The rulings state that the acts show a certain level of maturity and sophistication, and they were not ordinary juvenile-type offenses.

Caraway’s lack of criminal history or any prior anti-social behavior weighed in favor of juvenile prosecution, the ruling says, but that was the only factor in his favor.

Caraway and Edwards are both scheduled to have their first appearances in their adult cases at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. At the Dec. 31 hearing, Kittel set their bonds at $250,000 cash or surety.

Branden Smith, Caraway’s appointed defense attorney, declined to comment for this article. Edwards’ attorney, Thomas Bath Jr., did not immediately respond to an email from the Journal-World seeking comment Monday.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:

Related coverage

Dec. 31, 2019: 2 teens charged in Holcom Park double shooting to be tried as adults

Dec. 22, 2019: One of 2 teens charged in Lawrence double shooting booked into adult jail on 18th birthday

Oct. 1, 2019: Judge to rule later this month whether teens charged in Holcom Park shootings will be tried as adults

July 19, 2019: Hearings set to decide whether teens charged in Holcom Park shootings will be tried as adults

July 11, 2019: Prosecutors want teens tried as adults in Holcom Park double shooting case

May 17, 2019: Two teen suspects in Lawrence double shooting remain detained as court proceedings delayed

April 2, 2019: Topeka teens charged with attempted first-degree murder in shooting of 2 Lawrence brothers

April 1, 2019: DA considering charges in suspected robbery, shooting of LHS students

March 30, 2019: Lawrence police arrest 2 Topeka boys in shooting of teens at Holcom Park

March 29, 2019: 2 teens seriously injured in shooting at Lawrence’s Holcom Park; 2 people detained


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