GARY, Ind. (AP) _ Students were gathering in front of Lew Wallace High School for the last day of classes before spring break, a day featuring a talent show, when a gunshot blast sounded in the parking lot.


Neal Boyd, a 16-year-old sophomore, dropped to the ground as students scattered. The gunman then fled, witnesses told police.


``They said he walked up to him (Boyd), shot him once, walked away, then pulled up his hood and started running,'' said Gary Police Officer Jeff Tatum, who is stationed at the school.


Donald Ray Burt Jr., 17, a former student at the school, was taken into custody about 45 minutes later and was charged with murder, Lake County prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said.


Police Chief John Roby told The Associated Press that the suspect admitted shooting Boyd and told authorities where he hid the gun.


``It was a one-on-one incident,'' Roby said. ``Basically what happened, the 17-year-old walked up to the 16-year-old and put a gun to his head and fired one shot.''


After the shooting, Tatum ran to the scene, where he found Boyd trying to get up after he was shot.


``He was saying, 'Help me, help me,''' Tatum said. ``It wasn't very clear, but you could understand what he was saying.''


The school is in a middle-class neighborhood about three blocks from the boarded-up storefronts that line the main street in Gary, a city notorious for its high crime.


Gary School Superintendent Mary Guinn said Boyd was a quiet student with academic promise who was taking college preparatory classes.


``It's hard to believe, because Neal wasn't a violent person,'' said Jason Joyce, 17, a friend of Boyd. ``He was a good guy. He was a talkative kid. He liked to play games, cards and basketball and stuff like that.''


It was not the first shooting at Lew Wallace.


In 1999, a 15-year-old girl was struck in the head by a stray bullet as she walked home from school. In 1997, a spectator was killed and two others were hurt in a gang-related shooting at the homecoming game, and a student was shot in the face during commencement exercises.