A 12-year-old boy has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a professional boxer, who had once tried to help the troubled kid by taking him into his family’s Texas home, officials said.
The New York Post reports that John Duane Van Meter, 24, was shot dead inside his Boone Street home in Uvalde during a break-in just before 8pm on Wednesday (1pm Thursday), local police said in a statement.
Van Meter’s girlfriend, Sammy Chapa, had called the cops to report that someone broke in and shot her boyfriend, authorities said. Van Meter was treated at the scene and then taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The pre-teen was charged on Thursday morning, police said. He was taken to the Jourdanton Juvenile Detention Centre as authorities continue their investigation.
According to Texas law, children under 14 cannot be tried as adults for first-degree felonies, so the boy will be charged as a juvenile. He could face up to 40 years behind bars if convicted.
Chapa, whose two children were also home at the time, told the Uvalde Leader-News that she heard someone attempting to kick in the family’s front door.
While she stayed in the back bedroom, Van Meter went to check it out. Then she heard a gunshot and emerged from the bedroom to find the gunman pointing his weapon at her daughter, she told the paper.
“Then the shooter pointed it at me and my son … me and my kids ran to the rest room, and that’s when I called the police,” she said.
“He had his face covered and in black. I didn’t recognise him at all, but my son knew right away it was him,” Chapa said. “Police later confirmed it when they found the gun in his house.”
Chapa told the San Antonio Express-News that about two months ago, she and Van Meter took the “troubled” young boy — her son’s good friend who had been in and out of the Child Protective Services system — into their home for about a week.
“He kept getting my son in trouble, so I told him he wasn’t allowed in our home anymore,” Chapa told the outlet in a text message. “I don’t know why he did this now.”
She thought that the boy may have considered the couple’s home an easy target because they were rarely there, she explained.
“He was a troubled boy,” Chapa added. “Everyone warned us, but we just followed our hearts.”
Van Meter, who had a four-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, always looked out for others, his grieving girlfriend told the paper.
David Hernandez, Van Meter’s trainer at Tree City Boxing Club in Uvalde, told the paper that he had a “heart of gold and an amazing spirit.”
Van Meter had been boxing since he was 2 years old in Anaheim, California, and shared that passion with his dad, Mr Hernandez said.
“We often spent hours upon hours of training, travelling and just building a relationship,” the trainer recalled. “He spent many days and nights together with my own children, and they looked up to him as a brother, and I looked to him as one of my own.
“Everyone here knows John and knows the good heart he had,” Chapa said. “He was just perfect.”
He went by the name The California Kid in the ring and had a professional boxing record of 2-4. If he won another match, he would have been offered a Texas title fight, Hernandez told the outlet.
Van Meter’s dad — who took a job at an Uvalde apartment complex to support his family — was unable to make his son’s last fight, which he won November 30, according to the report.
In a post-match interview, Van Meter said, “I wish my Dad would’ve been here. I love you, Dad,” according to Hernandez.
Van Meter’s next match was scheduled for February 23 in Beaumont, and his dad was looking forward to being there.
“It is a very sad time for our community and our boxing club,” Mr Hernandez told the paper. “We will always carry John’s memory in our hearts and thank him for opening doors for the younger boxers of Uvalde and surrounding areas.”
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and is republished here with permission