Police are investigating whether the shooting of a 17-year-old Philadelphia student on a school bus early yesterday was in retaliation for an incident of bullying.

The teens were on a school bus headed to a high school for troubled students when a 15-year-old shot the student in the head. The victim was in critical but stable condition at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Officers arrested Taryale Petter of the 6100 block of Reinhard Street in Southwest Philadelphia nine blocks from the shooting scene, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. Petter had a .25-caliber handgun in his possession when he was picked up.

Vanore said Petter was charged as an adult with attempted murder and related offenses.

Police said the shooting stemmed from an earlier confrontation, but would not elaborate. Law enforcement sources said the suspect may have retaliated for an incident of bullying.

The gunfire erupted in the back of the bus about 8 a.m. on Pine Street near 57th Street, in a neighborhood of gabled rowhouses.

The shooter then shoved a gun in the driver's face and jumped off through the front door, fleeing toward 60th Street, officials said.

About a dozen students were on the bus, and half had left and walked to school by the time police arrived, officials said. Police interviewed those who stayed.

"It's obviously a very scary situation," said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the Philadelphia School District. "I can only imagine what it was like for the children, as well as the driver."

The bus was en route to the CEP Miller School at 43d Street and Westminster Avenue. The school is operated by Community Education Partners, which runs a program for students with behavioral problems under contract with the School District.

Many students leaving the school yesterday afternoon spoke about the shooting. One sophomore, who would not give his name, described the victim as "obnoxious."

"He just talks a lot of trash," the student said. "Makes a lot of threats."

Police were investigating how the alleged shooter acquired the firearm.

"The ease of these kids to get guns is something that troubles us on a daily basis," said Police Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel.

Gallard said that although the school has security precautions to prevent violence, students who ride the buses are not searched.

"The key issue here is that handguns are being made accessible to children," Gallard said. "Without that, we wouldn't have this situation."

The school is one of several in the city run by the for-profit Community Education Partners, which gives students aged 16 to 21 one-on-one coaching, lets them take classes at their own pace, and allows them flexible schedules.

Students are referred to the programs after conduct violations or personal problems. Gallard said the goal was to prepare students to return to their schools or, in the case of older students, to help them graduate.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.
Staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this report.