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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Friends Say Youth Would Not Fight 3 Athletes

May 26, 2000

PALMDALE — Christopher O'Leary was adamant, his friends said: He didn't want to fight the football players, he wouldn't fight them. But the three from Littlerock High School were bent on a brawl, the friends said, and had moved in because O'Leary told them not to call him "cuz."

"That was it, there was nothing else to it," said William Stiles, who said he was standing next to O'Leary at the time. "He said he didn't want to fight, but when he turned his back, one of the guys just cold-cocked him. Then they all jumped on him."

On Thursday, O'Leary's friends and loved ones offered their version of the moments leading up to the fight last Friday at a high school party that resulted in the 18-year-old's death from head injuries.

At a dusty park in Palmdale, nearly 100 people gathered to remember O'Leary. Those who witnessed the incident insisted there was no explanation to why O'Leary was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head several times until he stopped moving.

Three Littlerock High football players have been arrested in connection with O'Leary's death. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators say the beating was unprovoked.

O'Leary was described as an offbeat, expansive young man who had pored over animal books since he was 6 years old.

He wanted to open a pet shop, said friend J.R. Montgomery, and the two had plans to work in Belize this summer, collecting animals in the rain forest.

"And I don't even like frogs," said Montgomery, 25. " But this guy was so into it, it was hard to resist."

Montgomery, who is black, dismissed talk that O'Leary had provoked the fight by calling the three African American football players a racial slur.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "Chris knew more about my culture than I did. My dad called him his white son."

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