Deer Creek Shooting Suspect Found Not Guilty

Jury Says Bruco Eastwood Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity

The man who shot two eighth graders outside Deer Creek Middle School in Jefferson County in 2010 has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

After deliberating less than two days, jurors on Wednesday found Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood not guilty by reason of insanity on two counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of child abuse.

He was found guilty on only one of 15 counts -- possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Eastwood, sitting at the defense table wearing a white shirt and tie, his brown hair combed back, cried after the verdict was read. His body visibly shaking, he was comforted by a defense attorney who placed her arm around him and gave him a hug.

Several defense attorneys cried.

Defense attorney Katherine Spengler said they are very happy about the verdict but will appeal the conviction on the one count.

"Mr. Eastwood is very ill. He feels tremendous remorse for what happened. He continues to struggle with what happened to those children," Spengler said.

She said Eastwood and the defense team are glad that the children continue to recover.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 10 on the class 6 felony of possession of a weapon on school grounds. He could face up to 18 months in prison on that charge, and would serve that sentence only if state psychologists deem him healthy enough to leave the state mental hospital.

Prosecutors said Eastwood will be evaluated every six months by state psychiatrists about whether he's sane. Before Eastwood is released, a hearing would be held, allowing both prosecutors and defense attorneys to argue their positions on whether he could safely rejoin society.

Spengler said Eastwood has already been working with counselors at the state mental hospital in Pueblo on his mental issues.

Victim's Mother Disappointed In Verdict

Deborah Weber, the mother of Reagan Weber -- one of two students shot by Eastwood, told 7NEWS that she is disappointed in the verdict.

"I've never had any bad feelings toward Mr. Eastwood or any of his family," Weber said after the verdict, adding that she watched the trial with an open mind.

"After sitting through the entire trial, I came to believe that the prosecution clearly proved that Mr. Eastwood did not meet the legal requirements of insanity," the mother said, choking back tears.

She called for a change in the law.

"I believe legal insanity should not absolve someone of doing time. However, it should mandate where they spend that time," Weber said.

Matt Thieu Family Finds No Closure

Matt Thieu was the second student shot. He was hit in the side of his upper torso. Thieu also testified in the tiral.

His family provided 7NEWS the following statement about the verdict:

    "No one's very happy about it. We're extremely surprised by it. (Eastwood) knew he was hurting the kids. He had enough sanity to reload the gun, so we don't understand how they don't think he's sane enough to be found guilty. We don't think justice is being served. We were hoping for closure and there really isn't much closure."

DA: No Regrets About Going To Trial

District Attorney Scott Storey said he had no regrets about bringing the case to trial.

"The magnitude of going onto school grounds and opening fire on students is so great in my mind, that I couldn't have slept at night if I would have just rolled over and said, 'He's insane,'" Storey said.

"I empathize in some respects with Mr. Eastwood's condition. He's profoundly mentally ill," Storey said. "I still believe that he was not legally insane at the time that he opened fire on these kids."

"These kids were traumatized to the core," Storey said.

Jefferson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steven Jensen said he will pursue legislation in the coming state legislative session, because – while three defense doctors interviewed Eastwood – the judge ruled that the prosecution's psychiatrist couldn't interview the defendant under state law.

All three defense doctors deemed Eastwood was mentally ill and unable to determine right from wrong during the shooting. Only the prosecution medical expert found that Eastwood was legally sane, but that psychiatrist had to tell the jury, without explanation, that he was unable to interview the defendant.

"When we have these types of (insanity) evaluations, it should be a level playing field," Jensen said. He noted that during deliberations the jurors asked the judge why the prosecution doctor didn't interview Eastwood, and the judge replied that he wasn't legally allowed to reply and jurors shouldn't speculate on the issue.

Defense: Eastwood Had Struggled With Imaginary Voices

During opening statements last month, defense lawyer Thea Reiff told jurors that Eastwood had struggled with imaginary voices for years.

Reiff showed jurors portions of a rambling journal in which Eastwood wrote that mutants or transformers were taking over his body. Before the shooting, Eastwood scrawled that the voices were becoming more threatening, she said.

"They want me to have nothing. Instead, they have me suffering, alive but in pain," Eastwood noted in one entry. The notebook included doodles of a man under attack.

Yet, prosecutor Alexis King had told the jury that Eastwood knew the difference between right and wrong when he shot the two children as they were leaving school on Feb. 23, 2010.

"He yelled that they were going to die," King said. "He knew it was wrong and his behavior can't be excused."

Prosecutors said that Eastwood approached a group of students that afternoon and asked, "Do you like going to this school?"

Eastwood then opened fire on students with a 30.06-caliber rifle, prosecutors said. He shot Reagan Weber in the arm. He then aimed at a boy who was running away. Matt Thieu suffered a chest wound the size of a saucer plate.

As terrified teenagers ran for their lives, seventh-grade math teacher David Benke tackled Eastwood as he was reloading his rifle. While assistant principal Becky Brown grabbed the rifle, Benke and fellow teacher Norm Hanne kept the shooter pinned until police arrived.

At an earlier hearing, investigators testified that Eastwood told them he was poor, hadn't fit in with classmates when he attended Deer Creek in the early 1990s, and suffered from bullying and harassment.

Eastwood told investigators last year he took his backpack, cigarettes, $23 cash and his dad's rifle, then bought ammunition at a sporting goods store. After stopping at a McDonald's for some chicken sandwiches, he entered the school and told staffers he had attended it in 1991 or 1992, and asked if he could tour it.

He was told he would have to wait until students left. He waited in his car and watched a sheriff's deputy who was assigned to the school drive away to another call before he sneaked up on the students and started shooting.

Jensen stressed that during a videotaped interview two hours after the shooting, Eastwood repeatedly admitted what he did was wrong.

"We covered extensively his mental state and whether he knew the difference between right and wrong," Jensen said. "He said repeatedly that he knew what he did was wrong. He said he was motivated out of hatred and anger and revenge."

Under questioning by Jensen, a defense psychiatrist testified that Eastwood admitted that he knew it was wrong when he stole his father's rifle, which was later used in the shooting. The prosecutor thinks that's why jurors convicted Eastwood on possession of a gun on school grounds.

Deer Creek Middle School is just miles from Columbine High School, the site of one of the nation's deadliest school shootings in 1999.

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