Oxnard, Calif., is a mostly working class town near Ventura, about an hour north of Los Angeles. In a junior high classroom there Tuesday morning, Brandon McInerney, 14, shot a classmate, Lawrence King, also 14, in the head. Police now say the killing was premeditated and that Mcinerney shot Larry because he’d recently come out as gay:
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.
Larry King was a foster child living in Casa Pacifica, a shelter for abused and troubled children in nearby Camarillo.
“He never felt like he had a family, but he told me when he got to Casa Pacifica that he had one there,” a classmate and friend told the Los Angeles Times.
Brandon McInerney’s father has a police record that includes several run-ins with the law, including disturbing the peace, drunk driving and one count of domestic abuse.
Jay Smith, executive director of Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, a gay rights organization, told reporters that “[in] the 15-year history of this organization, this is the first time we’ve seen the district attorney act this swiftly and clearly to say ‘This will not be tolerated’ … We are very eager to see the district attorney follow through”
On Wednesday, the day after the shooting, about three-quarters of the students were back in school:
“We had extra counselors in,” said Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg. “They’ve been meeting with students all day long. They’re reporting a very healthy response.”
After the last bell rang, students stopped at the memorial on their way out, reading the messages. One boy knelt and prayed.
“We love you Larry,” a student had written on a paper note, “1993-2008.”
Brandon McInerney is being held in Juvenile Hall, where he is being held in lieu of $770,000 bail. He could face 50 years to life, if convicted.
California voters gave prosecutors the option of charging children 14 and older as adults with the passage of Proposition 21 in 2002.