January 28, 1997 in Nation/World

Confronted Bully Shoots Boy Dead

Miami Herald

A 14-year-old boy was shot to death outside a West Palm Beach middle school Monday when he demanded that a schoolyard bully return his wristwatch.

Police arrested a fellow seventh-grader after the shooting at Conniston Middle School. He wasn’t hard to find - after the confrontation, the boy ditched the .38-caliber handgun in the dirt under a portable classroom and reported to his homeroom.

The victim was John Kamel, no stranger to bullies.

Because of a birth defect, he had a plastic prosthetic leg that sometimes made him the target of taunts from classmates.

The suspect is Tronneal Mangum, nicknamed Tron. He stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 140 pounds. He turned 14 last month.

Their paths crossed about 8:30 a.m. on the sidewalk in front of the school as students streamed to class.

Kamel had been working up his courage to confront Mangum, whom he accused of taking his watch. The watch was a gift from Kamel’s father and the boy wanted it back.

Lazaro Rodriguez saw the shooting from across the street, one of a dozen or so students in front of the school at the time. “John wanted his watch back. He said, ‘Hey, give me my watch’ … then, boom, boom, boom.”

Kamel crumpled to the sidewalk; Mangum strode away.

As the life bled out of Kamel, an officer asked who did it. “Tronneal,” he whispered.

Mangum was pulled from class and read his rights. He told police that he shot Kamel because the boy shoved him.

He didn’t say where he got the gun but said he brought it along as protection because he knew Kamel was coming after him.

Police charged him with first-degree murder.

Linda Steward, Mangum’s mother, said her son told her that he had been having trouble with another boy at school. She said her son is being wrongly vilified.

“He is not the demon people are making him out to be,” she said.

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