(CNN) — A teenager whose arrest in a racially charged assault case drew thousands of protesters to his rural Louisiana hometown was in a hospital Tuesday after a shooting that his lawyer said was accidental.
Mychal Bell — who also was arrested last week after allegedly stealing clothes worth $370 from a department store — was cleaning a gun when it accidentally discharged, shooting him in the shoulder, his attorney, Carol Powell-Lexing, told CNN.
He had surgery Monday night in Monroe, Louisiana, and has not yet been able to talk, she said.
Monroe police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten said the wound was not life-threatening.
Bell was arrested at the Pecanland Mall in Monroe on Christmas Eve and charged with shoplifting, simple battery and resisting arrest, Monroe Police Lt. Jeff Davis said Tuesday.
Bell was released on $1,300 bond, and the case was assigned to city court.
Security guards at the shopping center received a late-afternoon alert on Christmas Eve that Bell and a male friend were in a menswear section of Dillard’s, where they were seen stuffing clothing into a Dillard’s bag, according to the investigative report.
Once spotted, the men split up, police said. Bell, chased by security guards, ran from the store to a parking lot, where he tried to hide under a car, Davis said. As a store security officer tried to pull Bell out, “Bell swung his arms wildly” and hit the guard with his elbow, the report says. Davis said the guard was hit in the face.
Bell admitted to the thefts, which police said included four shirts and a pair of jeans, Davis said. The merchandise was photographed by store security and returned to stock, he added. Bell was taken to jail and booked. Davis said the second man escaped.
Powell-Lexing told CNN her client went to the mall with someone to return a shirt, for which he had a receipt. The person with Bell did the shoplifting, and Bell was caught in the middle, the attorney said.
Davis said he had not heard the attorney’s details and couldn’t comment.
In December 2006, Bell was one of a half-dozen black teenagers who faced felony charges in the beating of a white classmate in the town of Jena, Louisiana, an incident that followed months of racial tensions in the community of about 3,000 people.
The case of the “Jena 6” drew national attention from civil rights groups that said the charges were excessive, and an estimated 15,000-plus people turned out for a September 2007 rally on the youths’ behalf.
Bell eventually pleaded guilty to battery in a juvenile court and later moved to Monroe, about 70 miles north of Jena.