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2 Grant Students Stabbed, 1 Shot in Race Attacks

October 19, 1994|BETH SHUSTER and LESLIE BERGER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

VAN NUYS — Two Grant High School juniors were stabbed and a 16-year-old student was shot near the campus Tuesday, apparently because of animosity between Armenian and Latino students that led to scattered after-school fighting, school authorities said.

Two boys of Armenian descent who were stabbed several times as they walked to their cars were being held overnight for treatment at Valley Hospital Medical Center, where they were listed in fair condition.

A third student, a Latino who was shot in the calf in a drive-by shooting about 10 minutes after the stabbings, was in satisfactory condition at the Medical Center of North Hollywood, police and school authorities said.

The boys' names were not made public.

No arrests were made and police are still investigating the stabbings and the shooting. Los Angeles Police Detective Craig Rhudy of the Van Nuys Division blamed the violence on tensions between Latino and Armenian gangs that he said have been at odds for years.

"There have been fights, stabbings, shootings--just about everything," Rhudy said.

But police said they do not believe that the victims were gang members and were unsure if the drive-by shooting was in retaliation for the stabbings.

Between 50 and 100 students were involved in skirmishes after school, said Sgt. Steve Masters of the Los Angeles Unified School District police.

Both stabbing victims were described by friends and relatives as Armenian immigrants who are not gang members. A hospital spokeswoman said one of them, a 16-year-old, was being treated for a collapsed lung. He is a straight-A student with hopes of going to medical school, a counselor said.

Said the father of the boy, as he waited in the hospital: "I don't know what's happened. He's a very good student. I am proud of him and I don't understand what happened."

The mother of the other boy, her eyes red from crying, said the family has been in this country for 2 1/2 years. "We came here for a better life, but it's the opposite. I want to go back, but we can't."

Ivna Gusmo, a Grant High School guidance counselor who came to the hospital because she was worried about the boys, said they were walking to their cars when they were jumped by Latino students.

Gusmo said tensions between Armenians and Latinos--the two largest ethnic groups at the Van Nuys school--have been high. "You have the hormones flying and the machismo of both cultures, and it's like getting little bulls together," she said. "We are trying to address these kinds of situations and prevent them.

"It's two groups of immigrants and, when you're trying to make sense of your new world, . . . you want to find someone lower than you" in the social hierarchy of the school, Gusmo said.

Students complained that administrators and teachers knew about a planned brawl this week and that they should have done more to prevent it. A friend of the stabbing victims, who asked not to be identified, said at the hospital: "They knew but they're not too serious about it."

Gusmo, who heard the remark, responded: "They're serious now."

The 16-year-old stabbing victim, who worked for Gusmo as an assistant, is a good student who doesn't get into trouble, she said. "He's a perfect kid," Gusmo said. "He's the one who will be a doctor, the one who will do well."

Tensions were high since a fight broke out on campus a week ago, according to students, administrators and police. Another fight broke out Monday. Grant Principal Eve Sherman said administrators and teachers were on alert all day Tuesday.

"You got a sense of tension here," Sherman said. "When you've been in the business long enough, you can tell the way kids are looking at each other."

Flare-ups began near campus just after classes ended about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The drive-by shooting occurred near Erwin Park on Ethel Avenue, about three blocks from the school, and the stabbings occurred two blocks south, closer to the school.

A school district police officer was on campus during the day and on the perimeter of the school watching students leaving, Sherman said. Both the school district and the LAPD plan to increase patrols near the school today.

In addition, a crisis team will be on campus to talk with students and teachers, Sherman said.

Students said that ill will had been increasing between the two groups, and that they expected conflict.

"There have been a lot of racial problems," sophomore Robin Nemany, 15, said. "The Hispanics will come up and say, 'I hate Armenians,' and the Armenians will say, 'I hate Hispanics.' It's been going on for at least six years--there's always trouble."

Said Daryn Maiman, a 15-year-old sophomore: "It doesn't make me scared; it makes me angry that they are fighting over something that doesn't make sense."

Times staff writers Timothy Williams and Jeannette Regalado contributed to this story.

Violence at School

Recent violent incidents at or near public schools in Los Angeles County:

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