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Teen who killed classmate at Bellaire High School found guilty of manslaughter

Prosecutors said the 2020 shooting of Cesar Cortez, a JROTC cadet who had signed up to serve in the Army, was a terrible accident.

BELLAIRE, Texas — The teen who shot and killed a classmate at Bellaire High School last year was found guilty of manslaughter Friday.

It was just over a year ago that 19-year-old Cesar Cortez was killed in the JROTC room by a fellow cadet.

Bellaire police said the teen was showing off the gun when it accidentally went off.

The shooting on January 14, 2020 stunned students and staff at the school and rocked the community.

Editor's note: The above raw video of police finding the teen in a dumpster originally aired on January 15, 2020.

The suspect, whose name wasn’t released because he was 16 at the time, was found hiding in a dumpster later that night.

He initially refused to cooperate or tell police where he hid the gun. They spread out searching for it, fearing the loaded weapon might fall into the wrong hands. 

Eventually, he led police to the gun but still refused to tell them where he got it.

Cortez was full of potential with a bright future, friends and family said. He had signed up to serve in the Army.

Cortez’s brother Dylan spoke to mourners at a candlelight vigil the night after the shooting.

“It fills my heart knowing that my brother is looking above right now watching all of us, watching every one of you. Pray for him and be here for him,” Dylan Cortez said. “I will miss him, and he did not die in vain because I’m moving forward for him and for my family, for my mother Cecilia and for my father Antonio. This one is for you Alex.”

Ceoeste Monroy, a Bellaire High School classmate, was at the vigil holding a sign that read “Fly High Cesar.”

"He was really shy but once you get to know him, he’s very outspoken and a really, really nice person,” Monroy said. “It just broke my heart knowing that something like this could happen to one of our students. We’re supposed to be a safe environment.”

When the school reopened a couple of days after the shooting, students lined up around the block because of increased security measures, including bag checks. There were extra police officers and only one way in and out of the campus.

Parents demanded the school install metal detectors.

The sentencing phase of the trial is now underway.