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Teen-Ager Killed in Drive-By Shooting at School in Hacienda Heights


A 17-year-old Hacienda Heights high school student was shot and killed on campus Thursday afternoon in a dispute that erupted half an hour after classes had ended, authorities said.

Shortly after the shooting in the school's parking lot, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies questioned witnesses until homicide detectives could reach Los Altos High School in the 15300 block of Los Robles Avenue.

The victim, identified by fellow students as Benjamin Barraza, was a junior and a cornerback on the school's junior varsity football team. The youth was shot about 3:10 p.m. after a car drove up and its occupants exchanged words with him, said sheriff's Lt. Leonard Tyko.

The 17-year-old was taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, where he was pronounced dead, deputies said.

"We never had anything like this happen at our school before," said Principal Donald White, who previously spent 9 1/2 years as assistant principal at Los Altos.

White estimated that 80% to 90% of the students had left the campus at the time of the shooting. About 1,600 students attend Los Altos, where classes end daily at 2:40 p.m., he said.

"This is the kind of school where people like to send their kids. . . ," he said. "But this sort of thing seems to be happening in a lot of places."

Los Altos was named a California Distinguished School last year by the state Department of Education, based on test scores and student achievement.

Its student body comes from predominantly middle-class neighborhoods and is 39% Latino, 28% white, and 28% Asian-American, he said.

Crisis-counseling teams will be sent to the school today, White said. Security will be beefed up in cooperation with sheriff's deputies and school security, he said.

Family members of the slain youth arrived on campus soon after the shooting, White said. He said he told them he had no explanation for what had occurred. "Words don't do much at a time like this," he said.

In January, 1991, shots were fired at an elementary school in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. A teen-ager on a bicycle fired five or six shots from a handgun as he rode past Nelson Elementary School in La Puente, but no one was injured.

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