California Middle School Shooting Called A Hate Crime

Published: February 17, 2008

OXNARD, Calif. – Police are calling the Feb. 12 shooting at E.O. Green Junior High, where a 14-year-old eighth grade male shot his classmate in the head, a premeditated hate crime.

The victim, Lawrence King, 15, was declared brain-dead Feb. 14, according to police. He was taken off his ventilator late in the evening so his organs could be removed for donation.

Authorities said classmates of the two boys told them that King had recently announced he was gay and began wearing makeup and jewelry. The day prior to the shooting, students said King and the suspect, Brandon McInerney, and a group of boys had a verbal confrontation about King’s sexual orientation.

Authorities are unaware how McInerney obtained the firearm used to shoot King although they said he sneaked the weapon inside the school’s premises.

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McInerney was charged with premeditated murder with enhancements of use of a firearm and a hate crime as an adult. Until his court hearings, he will remain at juvenile hall because he is a minor. He is being held on a $770,000 bond.

Brian Vogel, McInerney’s attorney, said he was going to ask the court to move the case back to juvenile court because the defendant had no criminal history and was considered to be a generally good student. McInerney is being tried as an adult because according to California’s 2002 Proposition 21, voters gave prosecutors the option of charging teenage suspects as adults. The legal cutoff age for charging an adolescent as an adult is 14.

Authorities said King was a foster child living at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for abused and troubled youth.

If convicted, McInerney could face 50 years to life. If convicted of a hate crime, an additional one to three years would be added to his sentence.

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