The 1994-95 school year is not off to an auspicious start. The new school year hasn't even started for many students; traditional fall semester classes in the Los Angeles Unified School District do not begin until Monday. But already there has been a killing on a campus.
On Wednesday 16-year-old Rolando Ruiz, a 10th-grader attending year-round classes at Hollywood High School, was fatally wounded in what police said was a quarrel between rival gangs. Ruiz, shot once in the chest, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Sadly, shootings on Southern California campuses are growing in frequency. Last December a 17-year-old Chatsworth High School student was shot three times in front of that campus after he refused to surrender his backpack to two robbers. Earlier in 1993 a 15-year-old boy was shot in the chest on the Dorsey High School campus. Both students recovered. During the last school year, officials found 127 guns on campuses of the Los Angeles school district.
Wednesday's attack was remarkable for its brazenness. Ruiz, whom police described as a gang member, was standing on a Highland Avenue sidewalk when three or four rival gang members stopped their car in traffic after an exchange of words, jumped out and shot him. They ran back to their car, but because it was then stuck in traffic, at the intersection of Highland and Sunset Boulevard, they abandoned it and fled on foot.
The murder occurred within full view of scores of nearby students and others at the busy intersection.
An understandably frustrated Supt. Sid Thompson wondered aloud what more the school system could do. "If you have this huge campus and a car pulls up, stops, there is a fight, and bang they are gone, I'm sorry, I don't know of too many things that can preclude that."
On Thursday school officials stationed grief counselors at Hollywood High while other campuses debuted a long-planned "safe return to school" program. These steps are necessary and appropriate, but what is most needed after this appallingly bold crime is quick and emphatic action to bring the killers of Rolando Ruiz to justice.