Jose Ivan Chavarria, Bruno Pedro Sanchez and Edgar Rolando Hernandez aren’t old enough to legally buy a gun.

But the three are accused of participating in the shooting of a Dalton teenager just barely old enough to drive in front of a Fourth Avenue convenience store Monday night.

Police aren’t saying exactly why Andre Johnson, 16, was hit over the head, then shot in the chest, killing him, in front of the Super Mini Tienda Mexicana, but they do say an altercation took place.

Hernandez, just three months shy of his 21st birthday, is accused of firing the fatal shot and is charged with murder. Chavarria, 17, and Sanchez, 19, are charged with party to the crime of murder. All three are charged with violation of Georgia’s Street Gang Act and could face life in prison or the death penalty. Dalton police spokesman Chris McDonald said there could be more arrests.

Chavarria, Sanchez and Hernandez made their first appearance in Whitfield County Magistrate Court Wednesday afternoon. Their cases were bound over to Superior Court, where they are scheduled to appear before Judge William Boyett on Friday at 9 a.m. for their bond hearings.

Chavarria is a member of the Tiny Winos gang, an FBI spokesman said Tuesday. The gang has previously been identified by law enforcement officials as active in Dalton. Police have not named a gang affiliation for Hernandez or Sanchez.

The three sat in chairs on different rows during Wednesday’s hearing, mostly keeping their heads down. They were dressed in gray and white-striped Whitfield County Jail inmate uniforms. Sanchez raised his eyebrow at Chavarria before he sat down after his hearing. It was the only time any of the three appeared to make eye contact.

Hernandez, who told Magistrate Sidney Baxter that he has hired an attorney, said he had no criminal record.

Jail records show that Sanchez was out on bond for possession of marijuana and suspended license, and that Chavarria was out on bond for possession of a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.

A woman who answered the phone at Chavarria’s home identified herself as his sister but said she did not want to comment.

In February, Detective Alan Woods said members of the Conasauga Safe Streets Task Force had identified 300 gang members in the Dalton area. People join gangs to have a sense of belonging, McDonald said.

“They get to these kids early,” he said. “They don’t feel like they belong so the biggest thing for them is belonging.”

While McDonald said he couldn’t comment on what kind of gun killed Johnson or how it was obtained, he said most criminals steal their guns or buy a stolen gun from someone else.

“You can’t legally buy a gun until you are 21,” McDonald said.

Johnson was named to the Daily Citizen’s All-Area team this year and had hopes of going to college and playing football, friends and family members said. His funeral will be on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Rock Bridge Community Church. He will be buried in West Hill Cemetery.

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