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Teen makes first appearance in shooting death of friend

State's attorney won't say what charge is being pursued

STERLING – A teenage boy appeared in Whiteside County Court on Tuesday morning for what turned out to be 5-minute hearing related to the March 1 shooting death of his best friend, Matt Anderson.

The brown-haired Rock Falls teen, whom Sauk Valley Media is declining to identify at this time, was accompanied by his parents and his attorney, James Mertes.

Judge Bill McNeal was hearing the case, but because of a new motion filed by Mertes seeking a change of judge, McNeal did not address charges against the teen, and the hearing ended.

The boy's next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Afterward, Assistant State's Attorney Carol Linkowsi declined to say what charge or charges have been filed because, she said, the teen is being tried as a juvenile.

In the 6 months since the shooting, State Police investigators have declined to release basic information on the case, including the age of the boy who, authorities say, shot his 15-year-old best friend in the Rock Falls home of a State Police trooper.

Immediately after the shooting, police declared it an “accident," but would not say how they had come to that conclusion.

Now, however, Whiteside County apparently is pursuing some charge or charges against the youth. State's Attorney Trish Joyce couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.

State Police last week declined this newspaper's request, filed under the state's Freedom of Information Act, seeking details of the shooting and the investigation.

That agency is taking a different approach than have other local police agencies in handling high-profile matters involving juveniles.

When two half-brothers set Prophetstown's historic downtown ablaze last summer, Prophetstown Police were quick to inform the media when the boys were arrested. Their names were not released.

In March, when Rock Falls High School students posted hateful screed on Facebook, and threatened to "shoot up" the school, Rock Falls Police issued a new release detailing their charges. Their names also were not released.

In April, when three teens were charged with criminal trespass to a building and arson for starting a fire in the former Limestone Building, Rock Falls Police again issued a detailed news release, again without identifying the teens.

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