Accused bowling alley shooter demands transfer to juvenile court

NORRISTOWN — An 18-year-old Delaware County man charged with fatally shooting a Philadelphia man during an altercation at an East Norriton bowling alley wants his case transferred from the adult criminal court to the juvenile court, citing it fact that he was 17 at the time of the alleged incident.

Jamel Barnwell of the 100-block of Beverly Avenue, East Lansdowne, who is charged with murder as an adult, has filed a petition with the Montgomery County Court to move his case to juvenile court, where the focus is less on punishment and more on rehabilitation and treatment .

Barnwell, through his attorneys, argued in court documents that he was a minor at the time and “both science and case law now make it clear that young people are less guilty than adults based on brain development and the specificities of young people.”

A judge in Montgomery County has scheduled a hearing on the request next month.

Barnwell, who is represented by attorney Thomas E. Carluccio, is awaiting trial on charges of first and third degree murder, multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm by a minor, possession of a gun, and the reckless act of endangering other persons in connection with the alleged shooting on February 20, 2021 at 6:40 PM at the bowling alleys of Our Town Alley, in which Frank Wade was killed.

Barnwell was charged as an adult under state laws that allow individuals 15 years of age or older charged with certain violent or serious crimes to be automatically charged as adults. Those defendants will continue to be treated as adults unless or until a judge dismisses the case in the juvenile court.

A conviction for first degree murder in adult court is life imprisonment. A conviction for third-degree manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 to 40 years.

But if a case is transferred to the juvenile court and if the charges are proven, an offender can be kept under court supervision until the age of 21.

Juvenile court cases are treated differently from adult criminal cases. In the juvenile court, there are no juries and all cases are heard by a judge. While adult court proceedings are more focused on punishment, the focus in juvenile court is on rehabilitation.

In the juvenile court, suspects are never called ‘guilty’, but are considered ‘convicted offenders’ if the charges are proven. In addition, juvenile courts are not bound by the same sentencing guidelines used in criminal courts.

Punishments in juvenile court may include placement in a juvenile correctional facility, treatment programs, a rehabilitation facility, or house arrest.

To refer a case to the juvenile court, defense attorneys must typically demonstrate that the transfer of the case is in the public interest, that the minor needs treatment and rehabilitation programs, and that the minor qualifies for treatment under the juvenile court system .

Defense attorneys argued that the fact that Barnwell was 17 is “a critical factor to consider in determining the degree of his guilt and susceptibility to treatment.”

“The law is clear, minors are different and those differences make them less guilty and more likely to be rehabilitated and amenable to treatment,” defense attorneys wrote in court documents.

But Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, who responded to Barnwell’s request, argued that “the public interest would be best served by keeping this case in the adult justice system.”

Prosecutors alleged that Barnwell brought a fully loaded pistol with an extended magazine to the bowling alley, shot five people during the altercation and “executed” Wade while lying “wounded, helpless and defenseless on the floor.”

“This was a violent mass shooting in which the defendant shot five people and killed one of them when he was just a few months before his 18th birthday,” Cauffman wrote in court papers.

“This crime has caused life-changing trauma for the family of the deceased victim, the four surviving victims who were shot, and the more than a hundred patrons, many of whom were young children, who witnessed the chaos unleashed by the defendant,” Cauffman, assisted by co-prosecutor Tanner C. Beck, argued.

Video surveillance obtained from the bowling alley captured “this horrific mass shooting as it unfolded,” Cauffman and Beck said.

“There is nothing soothing about shooting five people in a crowded public bowling alley and then killing the only one of the five who was unable to turn and flee once the defendant started firing,” Cauffman argued in court papers.

Cauffman and Beck argue that while Barnwell was technically a minor just three months before he was 18, at the time of the shooting, it “pales in comparison to the seriousness of the crime, its effect on victims and society and the risk of the suspicious factors likely to make him violent again…”

The investigation began at about 6:43 pm on February 20, when East Norriton Police responded to the bowling alley at 2912 Swede Road with a report of shots fired. Arriving officers found Wade, 29, of Philadelphia, dead in the bowling alley, according to charges filed by Montgomery County Detective Gregory Henry and East Norriton Detective Michael Henricks.

An autopsy determined that Wade died from multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was determined to be murder.

Four others, all from Philadelphia and relatives, suffered gunshot wounds and were treated at area hospitals.

During the investigation, detectives processing the scene fired 15 .45 caliber shells, court documents show. Detectives also found five projectiles, one in ceiling tiles and four in the floor where Wade was fatally wounded.

“There were countless other bullet impacts to the ceiling and walls,” Henry and Henricks claimed in the indictment.

A witness told Detectives Wade and several family members to pack their bowling when she heard a commotion in front of the bowling alley. As Wade and the other four victims went to investigate the commotion, witnesses heard gunshots. A witness told detectives that an armed man “fired his weapon until it was empty” and then fled the bowling alley, detectives claimed.

Detectives watched video surveillance from the bowling alley where Barnwell and two other men entered the store around 6:39 p.m. A physical altercation with the victims ensued a short time later, and Barnwell allegedly pulled an extended magazine pistol from his jacket and fired multiple shots at Wade and the other victims, according to the arrest affidavit.

One of the shots hit Wade and caused him to fall to the ground. As Wade tried to crawl to safety, Barnwell could be seen firing a few more times until Wade finally stopped crawling and collapsed, detectives claimed.

Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the alleged shooting.

Barnwell and the two men who allegedly accompanied him fled the bowling alley, leaving behind three cell phones, one of which was Barnwell’s, according to the arrest affidavit.

There were 50 to 75 customers, including young children, in the bowling alley at the time the shots were fired, Henry and Henricks claimed.

When detectives searched the contents of a cell phone left at the scene that allegedly belonged to Barnwell, they found stored photos showing Barnwell holding a dark-colored pistol with an elaborate magazine, according to the indictment.

“The stored photos of the gun and magazine are similar to the gun used in this shooting,” Henry and Henricks claimed in court documents. Camera surveillance.

Barnwell surrendered to authorities a day after the alleged fatal shooting.

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