updated 4/16/2008 6:08:14 PM ET 2008-04-16T22:08:14

A 17-year-old man was charged with murder Wednesday in the shooting death last summer of a young boy after soccer practice — a crime that shocked Britain and drew thousands to his funeral.

Merseyside Police said the teenage male was charged with murder and four other people were charged with lesser offenses connected to the death.

Rhys Jones, 11, was shot in the neck by a youth on a bicycle in a housing development in the northern English city of Liverpool in August. Police believe he was an innocent victim of gang violence, caught in crossfire during a feud.

The random nature of the crime, and the age of the victim and the suspected attacker raised strong concerns that a culture of gun and gang violence is on the rise in Britain, a country where such crimes remain rare.

Thousands of mourners dressed in soccer jerseys packed Liverpool's cathedral for the boy's funeral.

'Complicated inquiry'
Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, of Merseyside Police, said two men, ages 24 and 25, and two teenagers ages 15 and 16 have been charged with assisting an offender. The 16-year-old was also charged with possession of a firearm.

"It has been a complicated inquiry which is reflected in the number of charges today," Kelly told reporters in Liverpool.

He said the victim's parents had "shown courage, strength and dignity during what must have been a truly terrible time for them."

Four adults and one other 16-year-old have been released on police bail while more investigations are carried out, police said. Also, a 20-year-old man is being questioned and a 21-year-old woman has been released without charge, police said.

"Police officers and staff have been working tirelessly behind the scenes since day one. It's now a matter for the courts, and we will await the outcome of future trials," said Assistant Chief Constable Patricia Gallan.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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