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Students Walk Out of Class to Go to Player's Memorial

September 17, 1996|JULIE TAMAKI and LUCILLE RENWICK | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

More than 40 students walked out of classes at Reseda High School on Monday to attend an impromptu coffee-shop memorial service for a football player from South-Central Los Angeles who mysteriously died after a game last week.

The family of the dead youth, Eric Hoggatt, 18, contended that the walkout was brought on by school administrators' hostile reception to the family's remembrance requests--including a threat to have them arrested for trespassing on campus, which school officials denied.

Meanwhile, Principal Bob Kladifko circulated a memo to the school faculty and staff, saying Hoggatt gave no indication of any physical problems after the game--contradicting earlier reports by Hoggatt's teammates. That brought a sharp rejoinder from the Hoggatt family's lawyer, who called the memo "completely contrary" to the facts.

Hoggatt, a running back who played in the season opener Thursday against Chatsworth High, came off the field two minutes early, complaining to a teammate of dizziness and numbness in his legs and fingers. He was found in his bed hours later, dead of still unexplained causes.

Nicole Hoggatt, 19, Eric's sister, said that she, her sister Tamika, 23, Eric's twin brother Mike and Eric's girlfriend showed up at the school Monday to pick up flowers left for them by mourners, to ask for their brother's football uniform as a memento and to check on plans for a campus memorial service for their brother. But school administrators told them they were trespassing and threatened to have them arrested if they did not leave, Nicole Hoggatt said.

When it became clear that the school had no set date for a memorial service for her brother, Nicole Hoggatt said, she and several other people began going to classrooms, announcing that they were holding their own memorial gathering immediately at a nearby Denny's restaurant, a favorite of Eric.

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