Columbia Borough Shooting

Nicholas Mills, 19, died on July 29 from a shooting that happened inside his home at 102 North Third Street, in Columbia Borough. Police arrested Antonio Acosta, 17, who told police he pulled out a gun from the couch cushions and accidentally shot Mills in the neck while playing with the weapon. 

Officials have dropped a third-degree murder charge against the Columbia teen accused of shooting a friend with a gun he told police he thought wasn't loaded.

Antonio Acosta, 17, was charged July 30 with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Nicholas Mills inside Mills' home on North Third Street.

Police withdrew the third-degree murder charge against Acosta on Friday, according to a news release from the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office.

In the same release, the district attorney's office said "a 17-year-old Lancaster County boy" was charged with involuntary manslaughter, receiving a stolen firearm and persons not to possess firearms regarding the July 29 homicide.

The Juvenile Act prohibits the district attorney's office from naming the charged juvenile. The district attorney's office said it is exploring the option of petitioning to have the case tried in criminal court.

Reason for change

Police said Acosta picked up the gun, took out the magazine and fired the shot, which hit Mills in the upper chest.

A female juvenile witness told police a 21-year-old man in the room at the time of the shooting told Acosta not to play with the gun because it was not a toy, according to the charging documents first filed against Acosta.

The timeline around when the magazine was dropped wasn't clear, according to spokesman Brett Hambright. For that reason, there was probable cause to support a third-degree murder charge at first, he said.

Police were not initially able to talk to the 21-year-old man but did so as the investigation continued, according to the district attorney's office.

After talking with him, police learned the magazine was dropped as reaction to the warning, Hambright said. That was “crucial from our perspective,” Hambright said, to determine the appropriate charge.

Similar case

The case bears similarities to a Mountville homicide involving teens in 2016.

A 17-year-old was charged in juvenile court with involuntary manslaughter and theft of a firearm after firing a gunshot at his friend Ibram Hanna on Aug. 12, 2016.

Later court testimony revealed that Rosado removed the clip and believed the gun to be empty, according to the testimony.

In December 2016, a judge ruled the case should be moved from juvenile to adult court. The 17-year-old, George Rosado, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to six years in state prison followed by 10 years of probation for the killing.