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Police relied on students' social media skills to arrest suspects

L.A. police say they relied heavily on students' tweets in tracking down and arresting three suspects in the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old at Cleveland High School in Reseda.

April 25, 2013|By Joseph Serna and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles police said they relied heavily on students and their social media skills in tracking down and arresting a trio of suspects Thursday in the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old at a Reseda high school.

Using tweets from students, police said they were able to identify and ultimately arrest the suspects — two of them reputed gang members — in a Van Nuys neighborhood.

Kevin Orellano was stabbed to death Wednesday as he was playing handball on campus, which he had attended before transferring to an occupational center last fall.

Michael Steven Carpio, 19, of Panorama City, Michelle Pineda, 19, of Los Angeles and Carpio's 16-year-old brother were booked on suspicion of murder. The 16-year-old's name was not released because he is a juvenile. Carpio and Pineda are being held on $1-million bail each.

Piece by piece, police said, investigators used witness accounts, social media and the suspects' rap sheets to piece together the attack at Cleveland High.

Officials say Carpio and his younger brother approached Orellano and asked him where he was from, a common overture by gang members, police said.

Police said Carpio slugged the former student while the younger brother pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed him several times. Authorities said Carpio and his brother are both documented gang members, while Orellano was not.

Pineda is accused of acting as the getaway driver. Police said she was waiting outside the campus in a maroon minivan.

Students gave chase. One, on Twitter, recalled hopping a fence in pursuit, pumped with adrenaline and disbelief.

At least one student recognized the attackers, pointing them out to investigators through social media, Lt. Dennis Ballas said.

"Grover Cleveland High is a good school with good students, and that shows how quickly we were able to apprehend these suspects here," Ballas said. "It's a safe campus."

Though Orellano wasn't a current student at Cleveland, he had attended the school on and off for three years before transferring to West Valley Occupational Center in October, a school district official said. Many students at Cleveland appeared to remember him fondly. Carpio also briefly attended the school.

One student shared a photo Wednesday night of what appears to be a Facebook post from Orellano before his 18th birthday.

In it, the person identified as Orellano reflected on his years as a confused teen who dabbled in drugs and endured hardships before vowing to turn his life around.

"Im not longer that confused little boy that need drugs in his life, I grew up and became a MAN," he wrote. "So when I turn 18 Ima thank everyone who never gave up on me and saw the good in my heart."

joseph.serna@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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