Crime

Judge releases Buchanan High student who wanted to do mass graduation shooting

A Fresno Superior Court judge dismissed a charge of criminal threats against Kyle Dwelle, 18, on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Dwelle was accused of wanting to shoot the Buchanan High School graduation.
A Fresno Superior Court judge dismissed a charge of criminal threats against Kyle Dwelle, 18, on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Dwelle was accused of wanting to shoot the Buchanan High School graduation.

A Buchanan High School graduate who’s accused of wanting to do a mass shooting at his graduation ceremony has been released from the Fresno County Jail into a newly-enacted mental health diversion program.

Kyle Dwelle, 18, had been held in jail without bail since June 4, when he told Clovis police he was “one bad moment” away from doing a mass shooting at Buchanan High School’s graduation ceremony.

He was released from jail Thursday, Aug 23, after promising Fresno Superior Court Judge Michael G. Idiart he would seek mental health treatment, wear a GPS monitor, and stay away from guns.

Defense attorney Mark Coleman, who represents Dwelle, said Monday that Dwelle benefited from a new law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed this summer that gives judges the discretion to order a defendant to undergo mental health treatment in lieu of prosecution of a crime.

Because the law is new, both Coleman and prosecutor Andrew Janz said, Dwelle is likely the first Fresno County defendant to benefit for the legislation.

“(Based on doctors’ reports) it does not appear that Kyle poses an immediate danger to the community as he did prior to graduation,” Janz said Monday. “Ultimately, we want Kyle to get the help he needs.”

Since his arrest on two felony counts of making criminal threats, Dwelle has been held without bail because of his disturbing comments about doing a mass shooting and committing suicide.

Fresno prosecutor Andrew Janz talks about defendent Kyle Dwelle and gives a warning to the public.

Coleman had argued that holding Dwelle in jail without bail was unconstitutional. In his argument, Coleman said two doctors hired by the defense said Dwelle is not a threat to himself or the public as long as he gets mental health treatment.

Idiart had been reluctant to release Dwelle, citing a concern for public safety. But on Aug. 3, Idiart said he would reconsider his decision after the prosecution hired its own expert to examine Dwelle.

The prosecution expert’s report was scheduled to be heard Monday, but Coleman said the report came back early, so the hearing was held Thursday. Coleman said the prosecution expert agreed with the two defense experts who said Dwelle could be released as long as he gets mental health treatment.

Coleman said Dwelle qualifies for the new legislation because he has “an Asperger’s spectrum disorder,” in that he exhibits autism-like behavior and has difficulties with social and communication skills.

Because of his disorder, Dwelle was frequently bullied in school, Coleman said. Dwelle tried to get help for his disorder at school, but “he never received it, nor did school officials tell his parents,” Coleman said.

And months before his arrest, Coleman said, school officials called police to get Dwelle committed to a hospital on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. But he was released from the hospital after a doctor examined him for only a few minutes, Coleman said.

According to Coleman, Dwelle “is impulsive and says things to get a reaction without thinking how others will react to what he is saying.”

A criminal complaint accuses him of threatening two people. But Judge Arlan Harrell dismissed one felony count when one of the alleged victims testified at a hearing July 19 that he never felt personally threatened by Dwelle when Dwelle made comments about a mass shooting.

Harrell ordered Dwelle to stand trial on the other felony charge after the other victim testified she felt threatened by Dwelle’s “disturbing” comments about wanting to commit a mass shooting. Though Dwelle never threatened her directly, the victim testified, she felt like a target because she planned to attend the graduation ceremony.

At Thursday’s hearing, Janz objected to Dwelle being released on a GPS monitor. He wanted Dwelle confined to an in-patient treatment program. Idiart, however, ordered Dwelle to attend counseling sessions with Dr. Allan Hedberg twice a week and attend an mental health treatment program that deals with autism. Dwelle also has to live with his grandparents, stay in contact with a probation officer and look for a job.

In addition, Janz said Dwelle is prohibited from going within within 100 yards of Buchanan and the two witnesses.

Because of Idiart’s ruling, Dwelle’s pending trial is vacated. Within two years, if he successfully completes his mental health treatment program, the single felony charge will be dismissed, Coleman said.

“This is a great resolution,” Coleman said on Monday. “I want to thank the legislature for having the insight to realize that not all crimes committed by people with mental illness should be prosecuted.”

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts
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