Third-degree murder charge dropped in Columbia deadly shooting

COLUMBIA, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa.–The Lancaster County District Attorney’s office announced Friday that they have dropped a third-degree murder charge against a Columbia teen accused of shooting his friend with a gun he thought wasn’t loaded.

The 17-year-old was charged in connection to the shooting death of 19-year-old Nicholas Mills on July 29 along North Third Street in Columbia. Initially, the 17-year-old was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

On Friday, investigators withdrew the third-degree murder charge, opting instead to charge the 17-year-old in juvenile court with involuntary manslaughter, receiving stolen property and persons not to possess firearms.

New information revealed Friday indicated there is corroborating reports that the 17-year-old removed the magazine from the gun when an adult witness warned him not to play with it, according to a news release from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.

A juvenile witness told police a 21-year-old man in the room at the time of the shooting told the 17-year-old not to play with the gun because it wasn’t a toy, according to the charging documents first filed against the teenager.

Authorities were not able to immediately talk to the 21-year-old man.

Initially, there was probable cause to support a third-degree murder charge, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office. However, as the investigation progressed and investigators interviewed the only adult surviving witness–more information emerged in the case.

The Juvenile Act prohibits the district attorney’s office from naming the charged juvenile.

The Lancaster District Attorney’s office said it is exploring the option of petitioning to have the case tried in criminal court.

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