A 16-year-old boy was sent to juvenile prison on Thursday after he accidentally shot and killed his friend in 2019.
Yellowstone County District Judge Donald Harris ordered the boy to be committed to the Department of Corrections until age 18, with placement at Pine Hills Correctional Facility.
The boy’s disposition hearing was held in youth court for negligent homicide in the May 11, 2019, death of Tionna Rowland, 15. The boy’s case also included a theft charge.
The boy was handling a jammed and loaded rifle, and Rowland was lying on a bed in the same room, when the boy struck the rifle and it discharged. A bullet hit Rowland in the head, killing her. Another friend heard and ran inside to find the boy crying, saying that Rowland had been shot. The two then got help from adults who were outside.
Family members for both Rowland and the boy attended the hearing. Many of Rowland’s family members wore red T-shirts with a screen-printed image of Rowland’s face.
The Billings Gazette generally does not name juveniles charged with crimes. Exceptions exist in cases where the juvenile is charged as an adult or where law enforcement has identified the juvenile suspect. In this case the boy was charged as a juvenile.
The department could release the boy from the juvenile prison before he turns 18, if deemed appropriate based on his progress and behavior.
Regardless, he’ll serve probation until age 21.
It was the maximum term allowed by law.
Harris told the boy to take advantage of his time at Pine Hills. He said the boy needed treatment for substance use disorder, and grief and trauma counseling.
The judge called Rowland's death a tragedy. He also addressed her family, saying he felt their loss and was sorry for it.
“At some point in time here, we have to move on,” Harris said. “This is a young man, and this is the type of sentence that the law requires that the court impose, under circumstances like this. And I wish you all well.”
Rowland was a freshman at Skyview High School. She liked church and football, and she had her dad’s smile, said Victoria Bearcomesout, Rowland’s grandmother.
“Her future was robbed from us,” Bearcomesout said, outside the courtroom after the hearing.
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