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15-year-old Pennsylvania boy faces first-degree murder charge in shooting of a homeless man

By Steve Almasy and Macie Goldfarb, CNN

(CNN) — A 15-year-old boy is facing charges of first-degree murder and other offenses after a homeless man was fatally shot in the face in Pennsylvania, authorities said.

The victim, 39-year-old Jeremiah Hawkins, was shot Wednesday afternoon after the teen, Thomas James Niarhos, allegedly confronted the man in Pottstown, about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Pottstown Police Chief Mick Markovich said in a news release.

Niarhos appeared before a magistrate Wednesday for a preliminary arraignment where he was charged as an adult, authorities said in a news release. He is facing one count of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, carrying a firearm without a license, possession of a firearm by a minor and possession of a weapon.

The incident unfolded Wednesday afternoon when witnesses and surveillance video footage showed the teen allegedly “sought out Hawkins” before they started arguing, the release from police and the district attorney says.

Authorities say Hawkins swung a tire at Niarhos, who was holding a gun and had his arm extended, the news release says.

Niarhos then fired the gun and Hawkins fell immediately, authorities say. The teen pulled the trigger a second time, dropped the weapon then began to walk away but was detained by bystanders, according to the statement from authorities.

Police officers who arrested the teen found a .40 caliber semi-automatic firearm at the scene, and detectives determined it belonged to the suspect’s father.

Hawkins was pronounced dead at a hospital. He died from a gunshot to the head, the coroner’s office said.

It is unclear whether Niarhos has an attorney. Court documents say he was advised of his right to apply for counsel and declined to request a public defender.

A defendant in Pennsylvania generally appears before a magistrate judge in the hours after their arrest, according to the state’s office of victim services. The purpose of the preliminary arraignment is to give the defendant a copy of the criminal complaint and advise them of their rights. They are not required to enter a plea until their formal arraignment.

Niarhos is being held without bail at the Montgomery County Youth Center and is set for a preliminary hearing November 30.

CNN has reached out to authorities for the criminal complaint and a copy of the police incident report but has not heard back.

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