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Details in gay student's slaying revealed

The youth accused of shooting classmate had experience with guns and

February 12, 2009|Catherine Saillant

Lawrence "Larry" King wasn't sexually harassing fellow eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney in the weeks leading up to King's shooting death, prosecutors contend in court documents.

McInerney was the aggressor, teasing the effeminate King for weeks and vowing to "get a gun and shoot" him, according to a prosecution brief. Multiple students provided accounts of a growing hostility between the two boys, the document shows.

Their dispute ended in tragedy a year ago today when McInerney allegedly armed himself with a .22-caliber revolver and shot King in the back of the head twice in an Oxnard classroom as the school day was beginning.

"In the days before the shooting, the defendant tried to enlist others to administer a beating to Larry," Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox wrote in a "statement of facts" filed with the brief. "When that failed for lack of interest, he decided to kill Larry."

Prosecutors said they provided their most detailed account to date of the events leading to the classroom killing to counter the defense's argument that murder charges against McInerney, then 14, were improperly filed in adult court.

Defense attorney Scott Wippert contends that Ventura County Dist. Atty. Gregory Totten abused his discretion in deciding to try McInerney as an adult rather than filing charges in juvenile court. Fox said she filed the statement of facts in December to show that the case was filed properly.

The Ventura County Star published details from the document this week.

"It was an absolutely brutal crime, with premeditation and deliberation," Fox said Wednesday. "He was familiar with firearms and had fired that gun before. He knew what he was doing."

Wippert said the prosecution filing was a "one-sided version of the facts." He said it was meant to sway the jury pool before the case reaches trial.

"We don't know if any of this version of what she says happened will ever go before a court of law," Wippert said. "It was irresponsible to release it."

The one-year anniversary of the shooting is being marked in Ventura County by a candlelight march and vigil organized by a local gay-rights group. Similar memorials are being planned across the state, said Jackie Downing of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network in San Francisco.

"We also had a conference in Fresno over the weekend with 275 students dedicated to preventing further tragedies like this," Downing said. "They talked a great deal about Lawrence."

King's death struck a chord with parents, teachers, students and gay-rights advocates concerned that McInerney's alleged bullying of King had been minimized by school authorities.

"It's an opportunity to come forward and talk about changes we've seen, what we haven't seen and what we still need to do," Jay Smith of the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance said of today's candlelight vigil.

Since King's death, teachers have asked Smith's group for training in how to identify gay and lesbian students who might be struggling with their sexual identity. Teachers also have asked for resources to help students who have already come out or who may be experiencing bullying, he said.

It's been tougher getting school districts to expand any diversity awareness they already offer to faculty and students, Smith said.

"There's always that sense that you're pushing an agenda," he said. "We're not. We just don't want to have another gay or lesbian student shot twice in the head during school."

In her statement of facts, Fox contends that King and McInerney had an acrimonious relationship for months prior to the shooting. They sparred with "typical 8th grade, back-and-forth insults; some sexual, some not," she wrote.

Witnesses said King was usually not the aggressor. But after months of teasing by McInerney and other male students who called him "faggot," he had began to retort, according to prosecutors.

The day before the shooting, the two boys were bickering during seventh period. When King left, a student witness said that McInerney commented, "I'm going to shoot him."

Just after that class, another student heard King say "I love you" to McInerney as they passed in a hallway. The same student then heard McInerney say he was "going to get a gun and shoot" King, according to prosecutors.

A few minutes later, prosecutors allege, McInerney told one of King's friends: "Say goodbye to your friend Larry because you're never going to see him again."

The prosecution brief also reveals for the first time that McInerney was familiar with firearms, and that he had used that particular weapon in the past during target shooting with his family.

Investigators found a training video in his possession titled "Shooting in Realistic Environments," as well as skinhead and neo-Nazi books and similar writings from the Internet, prosecutors wrote.

Fox said a public airing of prosecution facts was appropriate.

"I had to tell the court what we knew at the time the decision was made to file in adult court," Fox said. "So that's what I did."

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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