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THE REGION

Girl in Assault Case Is Sent to Group Home

The 14-year-old Chinese immigrant who was shot by Ventura police after wielding a knife will receive needed therapy and guidance, the judge says.

January 15, 2003|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, she came to California from China, convinced that "the U.S.A. is like a heaven for teenagers and children."

In 2002, she was taken from the home of an abusive father and placed in foster care. After threatening suicide with a knife, she was shot three times by the Ventura police officers who had come to help her.

At a hearing Tuesday, the 14-year-old girl was ordered into a residential treatment program. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Brian Back wished her well, urging her to stick with the program no matter how much she might want to leave. The girl, whose father didn't appear in court and whose mother was last known to be in China, nodded from her wheelchair at the defense table.

Convicted of assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, she could have been required to serve up to five years in the California Youth Authority. But prosecutors said from the outset that they would seek treatment for her instead of incarceration.

"I've got my fingers crossed that she'll embrace the opportunity," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Miles Weiss after the hearing.

Telling the girl that she is more mature than some of the adults in her life, the judge said an intensive residential program would offer her the therapy and guidance she badly needs.

"None of us in this courtroom would want our children to have the things happen to them that have happened to you," he said. "We can go a long way toward helping you out, but you have to work with us."

The girl, who has been living in Ventura County Juvenile Hall for more than seven months, comes from a bleak background. Her mother abandoned her in northern China when she was a baby, according to her attorney, Paul Loh. As a convicted felon, the girl eventually could face deportation to China, where she no longer has close family members, he said.

Still in pain from her gunshot wounds, the girl was mostly silent during the hearing. Through her attorney, she asked that she be placed on probation with her father at an apartment he rents in Alhambra.

But Back turned that request down. The father, who had run a restaurant in Newbury Park, was convicted of child abuse after beating his daughter with a belt during an argument over her buying candy for her younger brother.

Though he has attended parenting classes since, he has failed to check in as required with Ventura County probation officials. They said that they would ask that an arrest warrant be issued for him.

Back said the father has refused to cooperate with social workers trying to plan his daughter's education. For that reason, he terminated the man's rights over her schooling.

The father sent word to the court that medication for a brief illness made it dangerous for him to drive to Ventura County.

The girl could be sent to a program in Los Angeles County, where her father would be close enough to visit, Weiss said.

The police officer who shot the girl, a 23-year-old rookie at the time, was cleared of any wrongdoing. In testimony, Kristen Rupp said the knife-wielding girl would not back off.

Loh contended that his client was shot because the officer panicked. Charges were filed only to minimize the county's vulnerability to a possible lawsuit from the girl, he said.

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