Westchester High School earned a dubious distinction this week. It joined the list of schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District struck by gang violence this year.
A 16-year-old student, whose name is being withheld by police, was wounded Monday in a gang-related drive-by shooting shortly after 10:30 a.m. as he waited for an RTD bus in front of the school. A bullet fired from a .22-caliber handgun grazed the youth's stomach and he was taken to UCLA Medical Center, where he had surgery. A hospital spokesman said Wednesday morning that the student, who police believe is a gang member, was in fair condition.
Many students, describing the school as a quiet campus, were shocked by the incident.
"I heard about the shooting on the (public address) system and said, 'What's going on here?' " said Joseph Chryar, 17, a senior who played football with the victim. "This is not the type of school where gang members hang out."
Administrators said they believed the incident to be Westchester High's first gang-related shooting. However, police said that in 1986, a student was shot by suspected gang members in the school parking lot after a football game. Extra police have been requested in recent years to prevent gang activity at football games, police said.
About 1,000 students in grades seven through 12 are enrolled in summer school at Westchester High School. The session ends Aug. 9.
Acting Principal James Berk said security will be tightened around the campus for the rest of the summer session. Police patrols have been expanded and the main gate facing Manchester Avenue has been closed.
Students will now enter and leave the campus from a side street, which will have restricted access during school hours, Berk said. An extra plainclothes police officer has been assigned to the campus, and uniformed officers will patrol the area more frequently.
"It's extremely difficult to predict and defend against a random, drive-by shooting," said Herbert Graham, director of police and administrative services for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "You have no way of knowing when it may occur, who may be the perpetrator."
But, he said, the added patrols and other safety precautions should discourage further problems at the campus.
"Westchester has had no history of problems," Berk said. "What happened here can happen at any school. . . . No school is sacred from it and that's unfortunate."
Staff writer Kim Kowsky contributed to this story.