Authorities are considering whether to bring criminal charges against a Montana 17-year-old who fired a bullet through his bedroom window, killing his friend in a case an investigator has described as an accident. The unidentified boy was startled when 15-year-old Mackeon Schulte and a friend knocked on his window early Sunday, Billings Police Capt. John Bedford says. The alarmed teen grabbed a revolver, described as a family heirloom, and allegedly shot Schulte in the head. Police are investigating the shooting as a homicide, but it will be up to prosecutors to decide on charges. Bedford says criminal charges could run the risk of "compounding a horrible situation. We're not going to rush to judgment. There's enough damage that's already been done."
Montana law recognizes three types of homicide—deliberate, mitigated, and negligent. Bedford said authorities were considering the latter, which applies when a person should be aware that their actions could cause death but disregards that risk. "You don't necessarily have to have intent," he says. "Was this young man negligent in not identifying his target before firing the gun?" Prosecutors have broad latitude on whether to file charges and can consider the wishes of the victim's family. But "there's going to have to be some kind of acknowledgment of what this young man did," Bedford says. Prosecutors also will have to consider whether a defendant can use Montana's "castle doctrine" of self-defense. A freshman friend says the suspect's house had been broken into previously. He was probably scared when he heard noises outside his window, she says. (Read more Montana stories.)