By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 2009 5:51 PM
A man suspected of being an illegal immigrant pleaded guilty today to charges that he fatally shot a 14-year-old honors student aboard a Montgomery County transit bus in Silver Spring, officials said.
The shooting last fall fueled a debate that led to a new policy for how Montgomery police handle potentially illegal immigrants.
Hector Hernandez, 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Tai Lam. State guidelines call for Hernandez to receive a sentence of between 15 and 45 years, prosecutors said.
About a month before the Nov. 1 shooting, Hernandez was arrested for possession of a switchblade and threatening a student at Northwood High School in Silver Spring. His status as an alleged illegal immigrant went undetected at the time.
Since that time, Montgomery police have adopted a policy of referring to immigration officials the names of all suspects arrested for violent crimes and handgun offenses.