Bryan Oliver takes plea deal in Taft HS shooting case

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Bryan Oliver has taken a plea deal for the January 2013 shooting at Taft Union High School.

During a court hearing Friday morning, Oliver pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted murder without premeditation.

The deal calls for a sentence of 27 years in prison, with a youth parole hearing guaranteed in less than 13 years.

Oliver, 16 at the time, brought a shotgun to school, walked into a classroom and shot at two students, hitting one of them.

Classmate Bowe Cleveland suffered serious chest and abdominal injuries.

Oliver shot at, but missed, another intended target, classmate Jacob Nichols.

The defense attorney in Oliver's trial, which ended in a hung jury last month, claimed Oliver was pushed to violence because he was tormented by bullies at school. A doctor hired by the defense ruled mental illness to be another important factor in the incident.

Oliver entered the plea deal Friday morning during what was scheduled to be a readiness hearing for his retrial.

The official sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Daniel Rodriguez represents Cleveland's family, and he told Eyewitness News on Friday that they're not really satisfied with the sentence in the plea deal.

"In all likelihood, he'll probably do 15 years at most," Rodriguez said of Oliver.

The attorney figures Oliver has already spent two years in custody and will get a parole hearing in less than 13 years.

"So, does the family feel that that's real justice? Not really. But, and here's a big but, they want to get this behind them," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said testifying is difficult for any victim, and added that the family was "hurt" that Cleveland was portrayed by some during the trial as bullying. They're relieved there won't be a second criminal trial.

Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of the Cleveland family, arguing the shooting was avoidable.

Just this week, an attorney for Oliver's family announced they have filed a $5.5 million claim against the school district, alleging school officials didn't follow state law and rules regarding bullying and sexual harassment.

The school district, meanwhile, is suing the city of Taft, claiming the city failed to provide a police officer the day of the shooting as required under a contact between the two entities.

The school resource officer assigned to the high school is Doug Hallmark, who lives in Frazier Park. Taft Police Chief Ed Whiting has said in the past that Hallmark was unable to get to the school that morning, because of severe weather conditions.

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