Teen accused in Texas high school shooting found incompetent to stand trial, lawyer says

The teen is accused of fatally shooting 10 people at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
Image: Mourners pray at a memorial in front of Santa Fe High School
Mourners pray at a memorial in front of Santa Fe High School on May 22, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

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By The Associated Press

HOUSTON — The trial for a teenager accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Texas high school will be delayed while he receives mental health treatment, his attorney said Monday.

The news comes after three experts — one for the defense, one appointed by the court and one picked by prosecutors — found Dimitrios Pagourtzis incompetent to stand trial, said Nick Poehl, one of his attorneys.

Poehl said he could not discuss specific details of any diagnosis due to privacy issues. But he said his client cannot understand the charges against him or assist in his defense.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis is escorted by Galveston County Sheriff's Office deputies into the jury assembly room for a change of venue hearing at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas on Feb. 25, 2019Jennifer Reynolds / The Galveston County Daily News via AP, Pool file

"I'm glad he's going to be receiving some treatment that he desperately needs," Poehl said.

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The prosecution expert's findings were discussed at a meeting between attorneys and Ellisor on Monday in which all parties agreed that the teen was not competent to stand trial, Poehl said.

A formal order from Judge John Ellisor is expected later this week.

Kevin Petroff, the first assistant district attorney for Galveston County, said his office was working to meet with all families of the victims before making any statement.

The 19-year-old is charged with capital murder in the May 18, 2018, attack at Santa Fe High School, which is about 50 miles southeast of Houston. His trial was set to start Feb. 18. Because he was 17 at the time of the attack, he is not eligible for the death penalty.

The issue of his competency relates to his current state of mind and not his state of mind at the time of the shooting, Poehl said.

The teen will be transferred from the Galveston County Jail to a state mental health facility, where he will remain for four to six months to receive treatment. After that, he will be re-evaluated to determine whether he is competent for trial.

It's not clear when the transfer will happen.

"We're all just hoping it happens as soon as possible," Poehl said.

Ellisor on Monday lifted an order that had prevented defense attorneys and prosecutors from discussing the teen's mental state.

The youth also faces federal charges in a sealed criminal case.