LAS VEGAS (AP) — Four of the eight Las Vegas high school students accused of beating their schoolmate to death in an alley around the corner from campus made their first appearances Friday in the adult court system.
In separate hearings, the two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds were ordered to remain held without bail pending a formal hearing to address their custody status. The teens are due back in court next week.
The students each face one count of murder but have not been formally charged, court records show. The Associated Press is not naming them because they are juveniles.
The other four suspects are awaiting separate hearings since they are all under the age of 16.
Earlier this week, Las Vegas police announced the arrests of the eight students, between the ages of 13 and 17, in connection with the Nov. 1 brawl that left 17-year-old Jonathan Lewis Jr. dead.
Authorities have said students at Rancho High School in eastern Las Vegas had agreed to meet after school let out that day in an alleyway around the corner from campus to fight over a pair of wireless headphones and a vape pen.
The fight was captured on cellphone video and widely shared across social media. Police said they are still working to identify and locate two more students seen in the footage taking part in the beating who also will face murder charges.
A prosecutor said Friday in court that the two remaining students were still at-large.
In Nevada, teenagers 16 or older accused of murder are automatically transferred to the adult court system. That’s why a family court judge on Wednesday transferred the cases of the four students. Police records show that one of them turned 16 on the day of the fight.
Outside the courtroom, special public defender Daniel Martinez, who has been appointed to represent that 16-year-old defendant, said his client will plead not guilty if he is formally charged in the case.
Martinez said he also plans to argue for his client’s release from custody at his next court hearing, but he said he had no further comment.
As for the other four students who are under 16, hearings known as certification proceedings will be held at later dates to determine if they will be charged as adults.
By law in Nevada, a teenager accused of murder can be charged as an adult if they were 13 or older at the time of the alleged crime.
Police homicide Lt. Jason Johansson said they believe the headphones and vape pen had been stolen from the victim’s friend earlier in the week, which resulted in the students agreeing to meet in the alleyway to fight.
Detectives think the victim wasn’t originally supposed to be involved in the brawl, but he walked to the alleyway with his friend after school, Johansson said.
The victim’s father, Jonathan Lewis Sr., said on a fundraising page created to help with funeral and medical costs that his son was attacked while standing up for his friend. The father has not responded to requests for an interview.
Johansson said the video of the brawl shows the victim taking off his shirt to prepare for the fight, and then the 10 students “immediately swarm him, pull him to the ground and begin kicking, punching and stomping on him.”
He called the video “very void of humanity” and said the victim was not defending himself as he was being attacked.
After the brawl, a person in the area found the victim badly beaten and unconscious and carried him back to campus, where school staff called 911, Johansson said.
Lewis Jr. was hospitalized with severe head trauma and other injuries and died a week later, according to the coroner’s office in Las Vegas.