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4 Boys Accused of Gang Rape at Fairfax High

Some school officials say police have left them in the dark on the case. The LAPD denies the claim.

August 26, 2004|Andrew Blankstein and Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writers

Authorities have arrested three members of the Fairfax High School football team and charged them with gang-raping a 15-year-old girl in a campus bathroom. A fourth player was expected to turn himself in.

But as the investigation continues, some school officials have accused police of not sharing information with them. The school has not notified parents, a district spokeswoman said, and cannot suspend the suspects from school or the team until police tell them more.

Police deny the accusation, and say a school dean escorted LAPD detectives and school police onto the campus when they arrested two of the boys.

The girl, a student at Fairfax who was enrolled in night classes, went into a bathroom in the late afternoon of Aug. 2, said LAPD Capt. Mike Downing. The four boys, who are all 16, followed her there and raped her, he said. She called police the next day.

Two of the boys were arrested Aug. 10 on campus, where they were attending summer school, and a third later turned himself in. The three are charged with one count each of rape in concert, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney. They're being held at the Eastlake Juvenile Hall, and their cases will be heard in juvenile court. The fourth student is negotiating a surrender through his attorney, Downing said.

Authorities said the suspects did not have criminal records, and no alcohol or drugs were involved. Their names were not released because of their ages.

The spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, Stephanie Brady, said school officials have offered support to the victim's family.

"We are of course dismayed if this incident occurred as we are being told it happened," she said. "We will remain deeply concerned throughout the investigation on behalf of the students involved."

The incident occurred between 4:30 and 5 p.m. when there were no school police on campus, Brady said. Normally during the summer, she said, at least one school police officer is on campus until 4 and again during evening classes (run by Fairfax's adult school), but not during the two hours in between.

Fairfax football coach Shane Cox refused to comment. But sources at the school said players were on campus that day picking up equipment.

Brady said LAPD detectives told school police not to discuss the matter, publicly or internally.

"We have had nothing but difficulty getting information from them," Brady said. "There are people feeling like their hands are tied."

Police also told a summer school dean not to discuss the matter, even with other school officials, Brady said. The LAPD's Downing said that's not true, and denied that school officials had been kept uninformed.

"Our detectives went with Los Angeles Unified school police to the dean and informed her of our intentions," Downing said. "She escorted us to a classroom. She facilitated calling both students out of the classroom into the hallway where they were taken into custody by LAPD detectives."

Brady said school officials cannot suspend the students from football or classes until they receive formal notification of the arrests from authorities. She said discussions are underway with the district's student discipline and legal units about what school officials can do, and promised that Fairfax administrators would take action before school begins Sept. 9.

Students have not been notified of the alleged assault. And on campus Wednesday, several people said they worried that rumor would overtake fact.

"It's so early for people to make opinions and comments," said Charylinne Matthews, the mother of two Fairfax students. "Right now, it seems like a lot of hearsay."

Matthews said that she knows two of the suspects and that her reaction to the accusations was "beyond surprise."

The incident, she said, was "unfortunate. It's unfortunate if it's true, and it's unfortunate if it didn't happen," she said. "Either way it goes, I feel for them.

"That's why I keep my kids close to me," she said.

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