Four suspects were arrested Monday in connection with a gang-related shooting that wounded a 19-year-old former Washington Preparatory High School football player and a 12-year-old girl.
The two victims were shot multiple times around 5:45 p.m. Friday in a parking lot on the Washington High School campus located in the Athens community of Los Angeles after a football game against University High School, according to a sheriff’s deputy.
Several of Washington High’s football coaches, who wished to remain anonymous, gathered outside of the campus gate on 109th Street after the incident. They adamantly told Our Weekly that this was a random shooting, not connected to either the school or the football program.
According to investigators, the 19-year-old male was shot in the pelvis, buttocks and lower body. The young man is reportedly an alumnus of the school and former football player who presently attends El Camino College where he also plays football.
The girl, identified as Mercedes Hearns, was shot and wounded in her chest and leg. She is a student at Audobon Middle School. As of press time, the male student has not been identified.
Deputies said that at least one member of the group that confronted the19-year-old may have said something about a gang before the shooting.
Kevin Bailey, who was at the school when the incident occurred, told news sources that he was on the campus Friday to see his son play and said hello to the male victim shortly before the incident.
Bailey said he saw a group of men walk up and exchange words with the victim who had graduated from the school last year.
He said the men appeared to be roughhousing and that five minutes later, he saw the victim on the ground.
“I panicked,” Bailey admitted, saying that seeing the man “lying on the ground…It’s my worst fear.”
School officials said the neighborhood has long had a problem with gangs.
L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, a former principal at the school, expressed her concern in a statement, “The school sits in the middle of a community plagued by violence and perpetrated by gang members. Despite all of the studies that have been done to address violence in the community and precautions taken by the faculty and administration to keep students safe, the problems within the community spill onto the campus.”
LaMotte further stated, “While we will continue to make every effort to keep students safe while on campus, we encourage parents and guardians to check the personal possessions and living spaces of their children from time to time to make certain they do not have anything they should not have in their rooms or backpacks. In order to stem the tide of violence on our campuses and in our neighborhoods, parents, educators, law enforcement agencies, students and community members must work together. We are extremely fortunate this time that both of the victims survived the attack and we must stop the violence and the senseless maiming of our students.”
Although security had been heightened for Friday’s game because of rising gang tensions in the neighborhood, officials at the school said that extra security has been assigned to the campus.
The parents of Hearns blame lax security by the LAUSD and police officials at Washington Prep for the shooting. They repeatedly ask how could the four alleged shooters get on a high school campus without school police and Sheriff’s deputies intervening. The parents will address their concerns at a public forum, Saturday at 10 a.m., to be hosted by the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable at Lucy Florence Coffeehouse, 3351 W. 43rd St. in Leimert Park.