DUNCAN, Okla. – With the simplest of motives – breaking up the boredom of an Oklahoma summer – three teenagers followed an Australian collegiate baseball player who was attending school in the United States and killed him with a shot to the back for “the fun of it,” prosecutors said Tuesday as they charged two of the teens with murder.
As the boys appeared in a courtroom here, a 17-year-old blurted out, “I pulled the trigger,” then wept after a judge told him that Tuesday’s hearing wasn’t the time or place to sort out the facts of the case.
Prosecutor Jason Hicks called the boys “thugs” as he told Stephens County Judge Jerry Herberger how Christopher Lane, 22, of Melbourne, died on a city street.
Chancey A. Luna, 16, and James F. Edwards, Jr., 15, both of Duncan, were charged with first-degree murder and, under Oklahoma law, will be tried as adults. Michael D. Jones, 17, of Duncan, was accused of using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to first-degree murder after the fact. He is considered a youthful offender but will be tried in adult court.
“I’m appalled,” Hicks said after the hearing. “This is not supposed to happen in this community.”
In court, Hicks said Luna was sitting in the rear seat of a car when he pulled the trigger on a .22-caliber revolver and shot Lane once in the back. Hicks said that Jones was driving the vehicle and that Edwards was in the passenger seat.
Edwards has had run-ins with the law previously and had been in court Friday, the day of the killing, to sign documents related to his juvenile probation.
“I believe this man is a threat to the community and should not be let out,” Hicks said as he requested no bond for Edwards. “He thinks it’s all a joke.”
The two younger boys were held without bond; Bond was set at $1 million for Jones.
Family and friends on two continents mourned Lane, who gave up pursuit of an Australian football career to pursue his passion for baseball, an American pastime. His girlfriend, Sarah Harper, tearfully laid a cross at a streetside memorial in Duncan, while half a world away, an impromptu memorial grew at the home plate he protected as a catcher on his youth team.
“We just thought we’d leave it,” Sarah Harper said as she visited the memorial on Duncan’s north, well-to-do side. “This is his final spot.”
Police Chief Dan Ford has said that the boys wanted to overcome a boring end to their summer vacation – classes in Duncan resumed Tuesday – and that Jones told officers that they were bored and killed Lane for “the fun of it.”
Lane played at East Central University in Ada, 85 miles east of Duncan, and had been visiting Harper and her parents after he and his girlfriend returned to the United States from Australia about a week ago.
His old team, Essendon, scheduled a memorial game for Sunday to raise funds for Lane’s parents as they worked to have their boy’s remains sent home.
Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer criticized the National Rifle Association and asked Australians to avoid the United States as a way to force its Congress to act on gun control.
“Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice,” he told the Herald Sun. “This is the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA that even blocked background checks for people buying guns at gun shows. People should take this into account before going to the United States. I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers, [but] it’s a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA. There is a gun for almost every American.”