Teen pleads guilty to murder in shooting outside Richfield school

A vigil lies outside of South Education Center
A vigil lies outside of South Education Center in Richfield on Feb. 1, 2022 to honor Jahmari Rice, who was shot and killed outside of the school. On Wednesday, prosecutors said the 19-year-old shooter pleaded guilty to murder.
Tim Evans for MPR News

A 19-year-old man charged in connection with a fatal shooting last year outside a Richfield school has pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and first-degree assault, Hennepin County prosecutors said Wednesday.

Fernando Valdez-Alvarez, 19, of Minneapolis, admitted in court to shooting and killing 15-year-old Jahmari Rice and wounding a 17-year-old outside the South Education Center in Richfield on Feb. 1, 2022, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

Authorities said Valdez-Alvarez and another teen, Alfredo Rosario Solis, were involved in a fight with three fellow students outside the school. The charges did not say what led to the fight.

According to the criminal complaints, a 17-year-old boy punched Rosario Solis before Valdez-Alvarez opened fire.

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The students knew each other and the shooting was not random, Richfield’s police chief told reporters last year following the shooting, describing it as an altercation that spilled outside the school and ended in gunfire.

South Education Center officials at the time said the shooting traumatized students at the school, which is part of District 287, a regional district in the Twin Cities for children with specialized educational needs or other challenges.

In January, Solis, now age 20, received a three-year sentence. A jury convicted him of second-degree assault with a weapon but found him not guilty of murder and first-degree assault in Jahmari Rice’s killing.

Under Minnesota law, convicted people typically serve two-thirds of their sentences in prison, with the rest on supervised release. Counting the 11 months he's already served, Solis will likely be released in about a year.

The Valdez-Alvarez plea agreement calls for him to be sentenced to 15 years on the second-degree unintentional murder conviction with a consecutive sentence of about 8 1/2 years on the first-degree assault conviction, for a total sentence of 23 1/2 years, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said, noting those are the maximum under state sentencing guidelines.

Valdez-Alvarez would be eligible for supervised release after serving about 15.5 years. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23.