Los Angeles police have arrested a 17-year-old exchange student from South Korea in connection with a schoolyard fight in Sylmar that left a 19-year-old friend dead.
The exchange student, who was not identified because of his age, was arrested on suspicion of assault after Jin Su Lee, also an exchange student from South Korea, died of head injuries after the two exchanged blows at First Lutheran High School in Sylmar.
A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said initial indications show that Lee started the fight, and the 17-year-old responded with a few blows about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday during a physical education class on the football field.
Lee collapsed and suffered a brain injury. He initially was taken to Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar before being transferred to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, where he died of his injuries Thursday.
The 17-year-old was taken to juvenile hall, but charges were unlikely to be filed, the police source said.
Los Angeles County prosecutors said they will not make a formal decision on whether to file charges until they get a completed coroner's report on the cause of Lee's death.
School officials told KTLA-TV Channel 5 News that the two were close friends who might have had a falling out in recent weeks. Police said the teens became involved in a verbal dispute regarding cultural differences.
"Then there was an exchange of blows," Bill Stark, the school's executive director, told KTLA. "It was not a ferocious fight. It was quick. It took about 10 seconds."
He said an instructor saw the tail end of the fight and ordered both to go to the office. At that point, Lee collapsed on the field.