January 18, 2011 | 12:40 pm
A Gardena High senior who was sitting next to students who were shot described a scene of chaos and fear inside the classroom when gunfire erupted Tuesday morning.
Miguel Lopez, 17, said he was in his health class when a gun went off as a male classmate was reaching into his backpack. The student, whose name Lopez did not know, was not pointing the gun at anyone, he said.
Two students sitting next to him in the rear corner of the room were shot, Lopez said. A boy was grazed in the shoulder. A 15-year-old girl next to him was shot in the temple.
"I'm scared and I don't know what's going on," Lopez told the Los Angeles Times by cellphone. Lopez was sitting with classmates inside the dean's office, where they had been escorted by security after the shooting.
Immediately after the gun went off, he said, the student ran out of the classroom. His teacher, Mrs. Jones, began screaming, he said. She ordered everyone out of the classroom just as school security was arriving.
As Lopez was running out, he saw the girl, who school officials said is in critical condition at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
"She kind of was crying. She fell back into her chair and fell on the floor," he said.
Lopez called his mother, in tears.
"He was all freaked out," said his older brother, Hector Lopez, 20, who was waiting outside Gardena High School. "He was traumatized. He saw the girl who was shot in the head. I told him to relax, to calm down, to stay away from whatever's going on."
Miguel Lopez said, "I'm shaken up and I'm worried. Right now, it's a weird quiet inside the dean's office. No one knows what's going on. … I don't even know what to say."
LAUSD spokeswoman Lydia Ramos confirmed Lopez's account, noting that the student did not open fire. Rather, he came to school with a gun in his backpack. When he placed the backpack on a table in his health class, the gun went off. He ran out of the classroom, with his backpack, she said. He dropped the backpack with the gun in it, then hid in another classroom before being taken into custody.
prosecutors charged a 14-year-old boy with the shooting death of a classmate
Thursday and said the killing in an Oxnard classroom was a premeditated hate
Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox declined to discuss a motive in the shooting or why prosecutors added the special allegation of a hate crime against Brandon McInerney, who was charged as an adult.
But classmates of the slain boy, Lawrence King, said he recently had started to wear makeup and jewelry and had proclaimed himself gay. Several students said King and a group of boys, including the defendant, had a verbal confrontation concerning King's sexual orientation a day before the killing.
King, 15, was declared brain-dead and was expected to be taken off a ventilator late Thursday so organs could be removed for donation, said Craig Stevens, senior county deputy medical examiner.
King was shot in the head early Tuesday in a classroom full of students at E.O. Green Junior High School. Police said the suspect fled and was apprehended a few blocks away.
McInerney's family was in a Ventura courtroom Thursday as the adolescent was brought into a holding chamber to face charges.
His arraignment was delayed to give his attorney time to review the police investigation before entering a plea.
McInerney was charged with premeditated murder with enhancements of use of a firearm and a hate crime.
Because he is a minor, McInerney will remain in Juvenile Hall and be taken to the Ventura courtroom for court appearances, Fox said. He is being held in lieu of $770,000 bail.
If convicted, McInerney could face 50 years to life. The hate crime enhancement would add another one to three years to his sentence.
"In Ventura County, we've never had a violent shooting like this," Fox said. "It's very tragic."
The defendant's family declined to talk to reporters, rushing out of the courthouse after a short hearing. But his attorney, Brian Vogel, said McInerney and the boy's family also were hurting.
"Both Brandon and the family are terribly sad to learn [King] is brain-dead," he said.
Vogel declined to discuss the case but said he would ask the court to move it back into the juvenile system. McInerney had no criminal history and was generally a good student at E.O. Green, where he was an eighth-grader.
Vogel said the boy turned 14, the legal cutoff for charging an adolescent as an adult, on Jan. 24. Voters gave prosecutors the option of charging teenage suspects as adults under 2002's Proposition 21.
Details on the backgrounds of both boys began to emerge Thursday. King was a foster child living at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for abused and troubled children in Camarillo.
Steven Elson, executive director at Casa Pacifica, said he could not discuss how long King had lived there or the circumstances involving his removal from his family.
But Elson said King had made many friends on the sprawling residential campus and that many of the children were grieving his loss.
"It's been a sad couple of days here," Elson said.
A student opened fire at Millard South High School in Omaha on Wednesday, killing one person, wounding another and causing students to take cover, the authorities said. No motive was apparent for the shooting of the principal, Curtis Case, and the vice principal, Vicki Kasper, who later died. After the shootings the student, Robert Butler Jr., 17, was found dead in a car about a mile away from the school after shooting himself, said the Omaha police chief, Alex Hayes. Mr. Butler is the son of an Omaha police detective.