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Admission May Prompt ACLU to Reconsider Suit Against Magic Mountain

June 04, 1993|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The ACLU filed a racial discrimination lawsuit Thursday on behalf of three Latino teen-agers refused admission to Magic Mountain, but said it will rethink the case after one of the teen-agers told The Times that he had admitted to amusement park guards that he was affiliated with a gang.

Carlos Alarcon, Javier Andavazo and Manuel Andavazo said in the suit that they were wrongly accused by Magic Mountain guards of being gang members, and told that if they ever returned to the Valencia amusement park they would be prosecuted for trespassing.

"These kids weren't gang members," ACLU attorney Sharon Robinson had said Thursday afternoon. "They found no drugs on them, no weapons on them. They were just kids. They didn't like the looks of them."

But Alarcon, who is 18, revealed in an interview with The Times that he told guards questioning them about gang membership that he "kicked back" with an El Monte gang whose members have been banned from the park for fighting.

"We told the (security guards) 'We're not here to start trouble because we're with the family,' " Alarcon said.

Alarcon said he was mainly angry at the way he was treated by the guards and at the fact that they let in a group of youths wearing gang attire, even though they threw him and his friends out.

"They let them in and didn't even search them," Alarcon said.

At the park, Alarcon said, only one of the three teens was "dressed down," wearing the baggy pants and shirt often associated with gang members. The group of youths who were allowed in, he said, "were all dressed down."

Alarcon said he was not a formal member of the El Monte gang, but "hung out" with its members.

"It's almost the same thing," he said "Being in the gang, you be with them all the time."

Robinson, when told of Alarcon's comments, said she would look at the case again today, and might have to amend the suit. If what Alarcon told The Times is true, she said, parts of it that claim there was no evidence the youths were gang-affiliated might have to be removed.

But, Robinson said, the basic discrimination argument of the suit is still valid.

"It doesn't change the law," she said. "They can't just exclude them because of gang membership."

According to Robinson, the teen-agers went to the park with Melissa Okamura of Rosemead, who is Javier's guardian, and two of her children to see Okamura's daughter perform in a drill team exposition.

Then, according to the complaint, the three--who live in Rosemead and El Monte and are 18, 15 and 14--were separated from Okamura and taken to a small room on the Magic Mountain property. There, the complaint said, security officers surrounded them and "battered them with loaded questions about their personal lives and associations."

"They were laughing at them and mocking them," Robinson said.

Although no weapons or drugs were found, the three were ordered to leave the park, the complaint said.

"These kids didn't do anything," Robinson said. "They were with a middle-aged woman and her children. They were just walking from the tram to the ticket booth."

This is the second time the ACLU has sued Magic Mountain on behalf of Latino youths who were denied entrance to the park. In 1988, the park and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department settled out of court in a case involving four teen-agers who were accused by park security guards of being gang members.

Magic Mountain spokeswoman Bonnie Rabjohn said park officials had not yet been served in the suit and therefore could not comment.

The three plaintiffs are asking for $1 million in punitive damages, plus attorneys fees and other unspecified damages.

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