Students, teachers and staff at Griffith Middle School and Garfield High School in East Los Angeles are receiving counseling to help them deal with the fatal stabbing of a 14-year old boy on the middle school campus by reputed gang member, who authorities say is just 13-years-old.
The victim was identified as Steven Cruz, a student at Garfield High School.
Cruz was walking home last Friday but stopped at Griffith to visit friends, authorities said. The suspect asked Cruz where he was from, a common tactic used by gang members to determine gang affiliation, then stabbed him in the torso with a sharp object, according to authorities.
Lea este artículo en Español: Consejeros son Enviados a Escuelas del Este de Los Ángeles Después de Asesinato
Cruz was taken to the County-USC Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
A 13-year-old boy arrested Tuesday, whose name has not been released because he was charged as a juvenile, appeared in court Wednesday and denied the murder charge and gang and weapon allegations — the equivalent of a not-guilty plea in adult court. He remains in custody until a pre-trial hearing Feb. 10.
A second teenager, who is believed to have supplied the knife used in the killing, was arrested at 10:20 p.m. at his home Tuesday and charged with murder; he is 14-years-old.
Los Angeles Unified spokesperson Monica Carazo told EGP that the school district deployed crisis counselors to both Griffith and Garfield to help students and staff emotionally cope with the killing. Crisis counselors will remain at both schools indefinitely, she said.
“Students react differently, it can hit them tomorrow or another day,” said Carazo, comparing the situation to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut where some people had no reaction until three or more days following the killings.
East Los Angeles resident Luz Mercado’s two daughters attend Griffith Middle School and had stayed after school for cheerleading practice the day of the stabbing.
She said her husband received the phone call from the school explaining what had happened and instructing them to pick up their daughters in the school auditorium.
“They didn’t release them until 9:40 p.m.,” she told EGP in Spanish. “They were scared because it happened at their school, and when a lot of people were there,” she said.
The school, just starting its afterschool program, was locked down immediately following the stabbing “to ensure the students’ safety by making sure the grounds were safe and to give authorities a chance to see if anyone witnessed the fatality,” said LAUSD spokesman Daryl Strickland.
Investigators have not said how many people may have witnessed the stabbing, but according to Carazo, there were quite a few students still “hanging around” the campus when the stabbing took place.
Counselors are advising parents and staff to look for signs that may signal someone is having trouble dealing with the tragedy, such as trouble sleeping or nightmares.
Mercado said her daughters appear to be doing OK and do not want to speak with a counselor, but she added that she and her husband will make sure the girls receive help if it’s needed.
The killing has many people questioning how someone so young could commit murder, and what can be done to prevent others from following the same path.
In Mercado’s opinion, too many parents do not pay attention to what their children are doing, which leads to trouble.
“Parents should get their children involved in more activities,” she said. “If students are not doing anything [productive] they will end up in a gang or something worse,” she reasoned.
It was a sentiment echoed by the parent of a former Griffith student who still volunteers at the school.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said parents are responsible for their child’s actions. “This could’ve happened anywhere,” she said. “Parents should talk more to their kids and should be able to help them when they need it,” she said.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents East Los Angeles, released a statement expressing shock over the killing.
“It is chilling that this tragedy occurred at a school, which should always be a safe haven for our children,” she said. “I hope that by working together, the community and our law enforcement can quickly solve this crime and bring justice to the grieving family and friends,” she wrote.
Carazo said anyone interested in receiving help from a counselor can go directly to the main office of Griffith or Garfield to request assistance.
Information from CNS was used in this article.