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Student Killed in Shooting at School in L.A.

February 23, 1993|DAVID COLKER and SAM ENRIQUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

LOS ANGELES — 17-year-old student was shot and killed at Reseda High School by a 15-year-old classmate Monday as a dozen teen-agers looked on, the second time in a month that a student has been gunned down on a Los Angeles Unified School District campus, authorities said.

The shooting came less than three weeks after the district launched an unprecedented program of random metal-detector spot checks for weapons in the nation's second-largest school system.

Authorities said Robert Heard, a Reseda High football player, confronted Michael Shean Ensley in a corridor of the school's science building during a midmorning snack break and fired once, hitting Ensley in the chest as other students watched.

Officials said the victim staggered across the tree-shaded campus and collapsed in a grassy quadrangle area near the administration office. Students believed at first that the injured teen-ager was playacting.

Several students then carried the mortally wounded youth into the administration building, where he was taken to the nurse's office. He was later pronounced dead at Northridge Hospital Medical Center.

Witnesses said Heard fled, weeping, across the 2,000-student campus, hopped a fence and ran to a doughnut shop a few blocks away in the Reseda community, west of Van Nuys. A school police officer arrested him there without a struggle shortly after he ordered a raspberry doughnut and a lemon drink, said a shop employee. Police said he was carrying a small-caliber handgun.

Authorities said that both Heard, a sophomore from Panorama City, and Ensley, a senior from South Los Angeles, were bused to the suburban campus. The motive for the shooting was uncertain, officials said.

Ensley's mother said her son was a gentle boy. He had enrolled at Reseda High to escape the violent undertow of South-Central gangs, she said.

"You think you're sending your child to a safe haven," sobbed Margaret Ensley, an assistant sales manager and single mother of two. "I thought he'd be safe in the Valley."

Heard was being held in Sylmar Juvenile Hall, police said.

The 10 a.m. shooting at Reseda High School led school officials Monday to hasten expansion of the metal detector searches to all 49 high schools in the district every day.

Supt. Sid Thompson said that "the shooting today re-emphasizes we have to do something immediately. . . . It's serious enough now that I can't avoid taking every action."

The incidence of shootings on or near school campuses also has increased sharply in Orange County since the school year began in September. Eight shootings have occurred at high school or junior highs. The latest incident took place Jan. 21, when a 17-year-old was shot in the head and killed while driving near Santa Ana's Saddleback High School.

In Los Angeles, metal detectors were used until recently only for some social and sports events. But, prompted by the Jan. 21 killing of a 16-year-old student in a Fairfax High School classroom, school police began using a dozen or so hand-held detectors two weeks ago to search for weapons at the start of school days, rotating randomly among junior and senior high schools. The searches had reached about two schools a day.

The district's recent purchase of 250 additional detectors, at a total cost of about $30,000, means that students selected at random at all high schools will be searched every day, starting in two or three weeks, officials said.

Thompson cautioned, however, that the detector searches will not guarantee that the sprawling high school campuses, with their many entrances, windows and fences, will be free of weapons.

Another Valley high school student, a 16-year-old girl, was shot to death only a few hours later Monday in what police described as an unrelated incident caused by gang rivalry.

The girl, a student at Cleveland High School, was killed, and two other students were wounded after an argument in the 19100 block of Napa Street, near the intersection of Van Alden, in Northridge, police said. "Someone pulled out a handgun, several shots were fired, and three were hit," said Homicide Detective Tom Broad.

One teen-age boy, shot in torso, was taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center where he underwent surgery. A teen-age girl, shot in the buttocks, was treated and released from another nearby hospital, Broad said. The identities of the dead and wounded were not released. Police were seeking four to five male suspects.

After the shooting at Reseda, a school psychiatrist and other counselors tried to console shocked students, but some could not contain their grief.

"Why did he have to die? Why did he have to die?" cried one teen-age girl. "He didn't do nothing to nobody."

Another student broke away from the grasp of a teacher. "This just doesn't make any sense," he said, walking away with his head held low. "No sense at all."

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