MONROVIA — Until Friday, school officials were confident that the city's only high school had overcome an unwanted legacy of racial tension and labor disputes.
But six minutes into the third quarter of Friday's football game between Pasadena High School and Monrovia High School, gang violence dealt the school a setback, according to parents, teachers and officials.
Two people were shot after a fight broke out about 9 p.m. between rival gangs behind the bleachers, police said. At least six gunshots sent players and many in the crowd of 1,200 scurrying to the ground.
Now school officials are trying to figure out how to revamp the school's image and what security measures are necessary to ensure safety at football games on the campus.
"It had been a very successful year," said Sally Koch, president of the Monrovia Unified School District School Board. "We were starting to talk about youngsters instead of issues. But this has been a real step backwards in our public relations."
Added School Supt. Donald Montgomery: "What this incident did was tear down, very rapidly, public opinion about Monrovia High School and the city of Monrovia.
"That's really unfair because this was not a student problem; the people involved in this (the shooting) were adults."
Police said the trouble started after a confrontation between rival gangs, the Devil's Lane Bloods from Pasadena and the Du-Rock Crips from Monrovia and Duarte. A security guard, who asked that he not be identified, said that about 15 people from each gang were involved in the brawl.
After he and two other school security guards broke up the fight, two men fired shots into the ground, he said. The ricocheting bullets struck two spectators not involved in the fight. A 14-year-old girl and a man were taken to an Arcadia hospital, where they were treated and released.
The game was called off with the Pasadena Bulldogs leading the Monrovia Wildcats, 13-6.
"It was definitely scary," said Trisha Johnson, a 15-year-old Monrovia sophomore. "I was crying because I didn't know what to do. I've seen fights, but nothing like this."
Two Are Arrested
Duv Cornelius Cooper, 18, of Pasadena, was arrested as he ran from the scene, Monrovia Police Lt. Robert Page said. He is being held without bail on charges unrelated to the shooting.
A 17-year-old youth from Pasadena was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the shooting. The youth was released to the custody of his parents. Police still are seeking other suspects.
"It was nothing more than a rival situation," said Ed Turley, San Gabriel Valley supervisor for the county's community youth gang services. "I don't think it was planned. The rival situation is constantly there. It doesn't matter what the occasion is, where it is or what time it is. When the two meet, there's a confrontation."
Turley said that the shooting is unusual for gangs in the San Gabriel Valley. "Often they do have weapons, but they choose not to use them," he said.
A confrontation between the two gangs three years ago left one member dead, Turley said.
Second-Generation Gang Members
The two black gangs were organized in the early 1970s, he said. "We now have a second-generation presence," he said, with children of the original founders now members.
"We don't see this as a problem in any way associated with the school," Page said. "We see this as an isolated incident on school grounds."
"We've had fights break out, but nothing like this," he said. "We've had gang problems but its never been on school grounds, it's always been elsewhere in the city."
Tom Hamilton, boys athletic director at Pasadena High School, called the shooting a "tremendously isolated incident." He said he had never experienced anything like it in his 30 years with the school.
"When you have a public event, you always run the risk that this will happen," Montgomery said. "To me, it's like a terrorist activity, and that's very hard to prepare for."
To prevent future incidents, school officials are considering doubling the private security force to eight and closing off and improving the lighting in the open area behind the bleachers where the fight took place, Supt. Koch said.
Additional measures may include random searches of spectators and prohibiting people from roaming about the stadium during the game, she said.
Banned for Season
"Anyone who misbehaves at a game will be asked to leave and will not be allowed back for the remainder of the season," Koch said.
School officials and teachers expressed shock and anger that the shooting took place on the normally peaceful Monrovia campus and that it has marred efforts to overcome resentment over two teacher strikes in seven years and five racial clashes among groups of students at the school between 1969 and 1972.