Jeff Lyne Cox, the former honor student who allegedly took 70 of his classmates hostage Tuesday at San Gabriel High School, was arraigned on a series of felony charges Thursday while scores of students crowded to see him at Alhambra Municipal Court.
Cox was charged with 10 counts of false imprisonment, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of burglary for the half-hour gunpoint seizure of his English class. Two shots were fired during the incident, but no one was injured as several classmates wrestled Cox to the floor and took away his .223-caliber rifle.
Appearing subdued and oblivious to courtroom spectators, Cox flashed only a brief smile Thursday when a preliminary hearing date was scheduled for May 10. Bail was set at $100,000 by Municipal Judge Michael A. Kanner.
Cox, 18, could face "well over 25 years" in prison if convicted on all the counts, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Holliman.
But attorneys agreed that the key element to the case would be Cox's troubled personal life. Described by classmates as witty and popular--a former candidate for student body president--Cox in recent months had stopped attending classes, school officials said.
He lived alone with his mother, who is divorced, and had become increasingly moody because of family problems, according to his friends.
"He's very bright, articulate, extremely personable and likable," said attorney Art Leone, Cox's public defender. "Yet he seems to have done this act. Why would someone who's so likable and pleasant . . . do something like that? I don't know."
Classmates who attended Thursday's brief court hearing said they were there to search for the same answer. A few said they were angry. Others said they hoped to offer support.
"I feel sorry for him. He was not a violent person," said Todd Ferguson, a friend, who speculated that Cox may have been hoping to be killed.
Ferguson recalled a party about six months ago at which Cox feigned a suicide attempt, cutting his wrist lightly with a razor blade. Friends at the party talked with Cox to get him out of the suicidal mood, Ferguson said.
"I think he wanted attention," Ferguson said. "He was the type of person to say things to make you think. (But) I don't think he would have killed himself. I think he wanted somebody else to kill him . . . like the police."
Another classmate, who asked not to be named, said she visited Cox recently at his home and he lighted a match, comparing himself to the flame. "He said, 'This used to be me . . . burning real bright,' " the student said.
Then, as the flame burned low, "He said, 'This is me now,' " the student said. "He used to get deep within himself. Jeff believed there was a world beyond and life was very temporary."
A few students who were taken hostage expressed anger at Cox, however.
Gabriel Escarsega, one of four students who tackled Cox and took away his gun, said, "I want to make sure he doesn't get off on some insanity (defense). I want to make sure he spends time in jail for what he did."