Teen who shot at school officer sentenced to 6 years

Christian Helms sits with his attorney Russell Long in the courtroom.

Christian Helms , the 15-year-old Socastee High School student who fired a shot that narrowly missed School Resource Officer Erik Karney and took pipe bombs to school last September, was sentenced to six years.

Judge Thomas W. Cooper sentenced him to six years for attempted murder, followed by four years probation. The judge said if he violates probation, Helms will have to serve five years for the two bomb charges. Helms will stay in juvenile detention until he's 17-years-old. He'll then be moved to prison.

On Monday, Helms pleaded guilty to two counts of transporting an incendiary device and entered an Alford plea on a charge of attempted murder. An Alford plea means the defendant does not plead guilty, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.

During sentencing proceedings, Karney testified that he thought he had been shot during the struggle with Helms on the day of the shooting.

"The gun went off so close to my head, it felt like a baseball bat had hit me," Karney testified.

Karney said there was no question in his mind that Helms intended to kill him.

"I still think about that to this day, I still think about that," Karney said. "My unborn son almost didn't have a dad." Karney's wife, Heather, was two months pregnant at the time of the shooting.

Karney said he still has nightmares about the incident, nearly a year after the shooting. "This is something I'm still dealing with and it's something I'm going to have to deal with for a long time," he testified.

In a closing statement, assistant Horry County solicitor Alicia Richardson said Helms idolized Eric Klebold and Dylan Harris, the two students who killed 15 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

Though no one was killed in the Socastee shooting, Richardson said Karney would never be the same again and Horry County schools would never be the same again.

Helms' attorney Russell Long has argued in previous court proceedings that Helms had been bullied and that the then-14-year-old did not intend to murder anyone. But Richardson argued that Helms' intent was clear.

"If you don't intend to kill somebody, why would you point a loaded and cocked gun at his head?" she asked.

Richardson argued the bullying defense was just a way for Helms to deflect responsibility.

"It's just an excuse and it's a way not to take the blame."

Witnesses for the defense at Wednesday's hearing included Helms' paternal grandmother Lynn Prosser. She testified that Helms was a kind, loving child who never showed aggressive behavior.

Helms' parents also took the stand. Through tears, James Helms read a statement in which he said he always loved his son, but didn't always show it. "Your honor, he wasn't just bullied at school, he was bullied at home by me," the elder Helms told Cooper.

Tracy Helms said her son was the best thing that ever happened in her life. She saw no signs of behavioral problems in Christian, she testified. "I don't understand any of it. But I have seen good changes in him" since the shooting, she testified.

Long said there was evidence that shows the gunshot was accidental and that shortly after Helms entered Karney's office that day, he wanted to put the gun back. "He wanted to hit rewind," Long said. "A long period of incarceration will do Christian no good," Long added.

The courtroom went silent as Helms stood and addressed the judge. "I feel really bad about everything I did," Helms said. "I want to do better, I want people to be proud of me."

In his statement to the judge, Helms thanked Karney. "He's the only reason I get to call myself a 15-year-old."