MONROE, La. – A teen convicted in the "Jena Six" beating case shot himself in the chest and was taken to the hospital Monday, days after his arrest on a shoplifting charge, police said.
Mychal Bell's wound isn't life threatening, said Monroe Police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten. The 18-year-old used a .22-caliber firearm in the shooting around 7:40 p.m., she said.
Wooten believes Bell was upset over media coverage of the arrest last week.
"I think he was upset over the incident ... and didn't want to be in the news again," she said.
Bell was one of a group of black teenagers who once faced attempted murder charges in the 2006 beating of a white classmate at Jena High School. The charges for all of the defendants were reduced.
The severity of the original charges brought widespread criticism and eventually led to more than 20,000 people converging in September 2007 on the tiny central Louisiana town of Jena for the largest civil rights march in decades.
Bell was in the news again after he was arrested on Dec. 24 and booked on charges of shoplifting, resisting arrest and simple assault, police said.
Police said Bell tried to steal several shirts and a pair of jeans from a department store and fled when a security guard and off-duty police officer tried to detain him. After they found him hiding under a car, Bell "swung his arms wildly" and one of his elbows struck the security guard with a glancing blow, according to a police report. He was freed on $1,300 bond.
Wooten said Bell was taken to a hospital in Monroe, where a nursing supervisor wouldn't release his condition. Wooten didn't have further details on the shooting.
One of Bell's attorneys in the assault case didn't immediately return a call Monday seeking comment on the shoplifting case.
In the Jena case, Bell eventually pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery.
Bell, the only one of the six who has been tried, has been living in a foster home in Monroe and attending school.