Main | Thursday, February 14, 2008

Attempted Murder, Hates Crimes Charged In Lawrence King Shooting

Prosecutors in Oxnard, California have charged a 14 year-old boy with attempted murder (with a hate-crime enhancement) and use of a firearm in the case of Lawrence King (pictured, at unknown age), the 15 year-old gay youth shot in his 8th grade classroom yesterday. Despite reports late yesterday that King had died, he is brain-dead and remains on a ventilator pending a decision on harvesting his organs for donation. (The erroneous story I linked yesterday has been removed by the San Francisco Chronicle.)
Prosecutors planned to seek to have the 14-year-old tried as an adult and expected the charges to be upgraded when victim Lawrence King was taken off the ventilator for organ donation, said Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox.

"It is inevitable that this is going to become a murder case," she said. Fox said she could not discuss the facts behind the allegation of a hate crime because those details of the case have not been publicly disclosed.

Oxnard police have not specified a motive but said there appeared to be a personal dispute between the two. Several classmates have said King would wear feminine attire. King sometimes came to school wearing makeup and high heels, eighth-grader Nicholas Cortez, 14, told The Associated Press.

Another eighth-grader, Michael Sweeney, said King's appearance was "freaking the guys out," the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. "He would come to school in high-heeled boots, makeup, jewelry and painted nails — the whole thing," Sweeney told the Times.

King was shot in the head Tuesday morning during a class at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, police said. More than 20 other students were in the room at the time.

Police said a handgun was used in the attack and the 14-year-old was quickly arrested near the school. King was pronounced brain dead at St. John's Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, Ventura County Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Stevens said. Doctors planned to remove some of his organs for donation Thursday, Stevens said.

"I think that's what he would have wanted," King's father, Greg King, told the Ventura County Star. Lawrence King had been under the care of the county foster care system and lived at Casa Pacifica, a nearby center for abused and neglected children, said Steve Elson, the facility's chief executive.

"We're are all stunned and it's just an unspeakable tragedy," Elson said Wednesday. "This is a very big traumatic experience for all of us."
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center, and Equality California have issued a joint statement decrying King's shooting. "With young people coming out at younger ages, our schools -- especially our junior highs and middle schools -- need to be proactive about teaching respect for diversity based on sexual orientation and gender identity," said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "The tragic death of Lawrence King is a wake-up call for our schools to better protect students from harassment at school. As a society, we can prevent this kind of violence from happening."

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