The Associated Press

FORT BLISS, Texas (AP) - A Fort Bliss soldier charged with murder in the shooting death of a local high school student has been found incompetent to stand trial, the U.S. Army announced Saturday.

Spc. Gerald Polanco, 37, will be transferred within the next week from the Otero County Detention Facility in New Mexico to the Bureau of Prisons and hospitalized for up to four months, the Army said in a news release. Justice Department officials plan to place Polanco in a medical center in Missouri or one in North Carolina, Polanco's attorney John Convery told the El Paso Times.

Polanco's family has requested the North Carolina center because they consider it more modern, he said.

Convery told The Associated Press that he had already talked to the newspaper and that was all he was prepared to say.

He said previously that Polanco and his family tried unsuccessfully to get the soldier help through his unit before the shooting. Polanco's family also has tried to get treatment for him at the Otero County jail, Convery said.

The Army plans to reevaluate Polanco in about four months to see if can stand trial. If so, he will be transferred back into the military's custody. If not, he will remain hospitalized, the Army said.

Polanco is accused of fatally shooting 18-year-old Ezra Gerald Smith and wounding another soldier outside the main gates at Fort Bliss on April 24. Along with the murder charge in Smith's death, Polanco is charged with attempted murder in the wounding of the unidentified soldier. He also faces a charge of being absent without leave.

"If modern medicine can help him become competent and we can continue on with the proceedings, then I think there's very little doubt his mental status at the time of the event would be extremely significant," Convery told the newspaper. "Our position is this is a tragedy for everybody. Our position is it's about sickness and mental health, and not about being a criminal."

He said he was concerned because the military had not told Polanco's family about the upcoming transfer.

Polanco, an Iraq war veteran, had been serving as a military police soldier with the 1st Armored Division. His transfer to a hospital will temporarily delay his court martial, Convery said.

Some information from:

El Paso Times,