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Psychologist: Accused 16-year-old Westroads shooter could be rehabilitated in juvenile court

Posted at 10:54 AM, Sep 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 11:54:11-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — 16-year-old Makhi Woolridge-Jones allegedly shot and killed Trequez Swift at Westroads Mall in April.

Friday, the court heard evidence to move the case to the juvenile courts.

A psychologist called by the defense as a witness said Woolridge-Jones could "absolutely" complete rehabilitation services through the juvenile courts before he turns 19 in December 2023.

Woolridge-Jones pleaded not guilty in April.

Dr. Colleen Conoley, a licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. in School Psychology, completed several assessments of Woolridge-Jones, interviewed family, reviewed records from Omaha Public Schools and watched the security camera video from the mall.

She said Woolridge-Jones has a structurally changed brain, in part due to frequent marijuana use as early as third or fourth grade.

She said he's had multiple traumatic experiences, including losing people to gun violence and witnessing the shooting of a convenience store security guard. His father died in a car accident before he had a chance to meet him, she said.

Wooldridge-Jones also, according to Conoley:

  • Is more likely to have impulsive responses
  • Described an out-of-body experience of the shooting. He recalls some details but not others.
  • He showed empathy for the victim and said he didn't intend to kill Swift.
  • He carried a gun with him to protect himself, except to his job.
  • He has poor social de-escalation skills. Before the shooting, he thought he was working to de-escalate the situation.

"He completely thought that if he didn't fire the gun at Trequez (Swift) that he would be killed," Conoley said. "So he thought his life was in danger at that moment."

No decision was made Friday. Each side has two weeks to submit closing arguments.