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A 14-year-old boy charged with murder and a hate crime in the shooting of a classmate is scheduled to be arranged this week - arraigned this week in Southern California. The victim was openly gay and was reportedly teased by a number of his fellow classmates. The case has drawn nationwide attention to - the case has drawn nationwide attention as residents of the seaside town of Oxnard are asking: how could this happen?
Reporter Gloria Hillard has the story.
GLORIA HILLARD: The makeshift memorial of candles and stuffed animals that was once near the entrance of E.O. Green Junior High School is now gone. And when school lets out, an energetic parade fills the sidewalk.
And as they pass by, you wonder if any of them were in the classroom that day.
(Soundbite of phone call)
Unidentified Woman #1: The teacher has the lesson. The teacher has the lesson.
Unidentified Woman #2 (Unintelligible) okay.
Unidentified Woman #1: We need an ambulance.
Unidentified Woman #2: The ambulance is on the way. They...
HILLARD: It was February 12th, just minutes after school had begun, when 14-year-old Brandon McInerney - a tall athletic boy - pulled out a gun in a packed classroom. He then shot his classmate, 15-year-old Larry King, in the head. Behind the tragedy is the story of two boys, both very different and both with troubled pasts. For the last four months of his life, Larry King lived at Casa Pacifica, a home for abused and neglected children.
Ms. VICKI MURPHY (Casa Pacifica): Did you play baseball last night? Did you win?
HILLARD: Vicki Murphy, director of development here, says the slight brown-eyed King was a gentle boy who loved to sing and dreamed of being on American Idol. She's leading me down a path of stones in the ground, painted by the young residents.
Ms. MURPHY: The day that they were painting them, a child had written on theirs - well, let's see if you can see it - kill.
HILLARD: Kill or die?
Ms. MURPHY: Maybe die. And so one of their volunteers had taken it to Larry and said: can you fix this? And so he painted over it beautifully, with rainbows and flowers.
HILLARD: King painted the stone three days before his death. The shooter, Brandon McInerney, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and a hate crime. McInerney was a popular boy in school, a surfer, and a member of the Young Marines. Ventura County senior deputy public defender, Willy Quest, says Brandon is also a kid from a troubled home.
Mr. WILLY QUEST (Lawyer): And we will establish that there was addiction on both the mom and dad, and domestic violence - and violence - and everything that had effect on Brandon.
Ms. MAEVE FOX (Lawyer): This case has generated a tremendous volume of very high-pitched emotional reactions on both sides.
HILLARD: Maeve Fox is the senior deputy DA assigned to the case.
Ms. FOX: People telling us to try him as an adult. People telling us that he shouldn't be tried as an adult.
HILLARD: If tried as an adult, McInerney could face life in prison. If tried as a juvenile, he could be released when he turns 21. The public defender is planning to file a motion to have the case transferred to juvenile court. In the meantime, opinions in this seaside town are still highly charged. Cathy Williams(ph) says in the farmland, yield two acres of asphalt and now this.
Ms. CATHY WILLIAMS: Either way I - he should be tried. He shouldn't had a gun. And that, you know, and he had gun, how did he get a gun? Was it from his parents? You don't know, so I don't know.
HILLARD: In their nearby beach neighborhood of Silver Strand where Brandon grew up, Linda Norton(ph) and Patrice Magarey(ph) are packing up their beach chairs at the ocean's edge.
Ms. LINDA NORTON: I just look at that could be my kid and I feel like he is a child, and he made a stupid decision with hormones flowing. I mean, he - he's not an adult. You cannot try a child as an adult. He did a stupid thing and I'm not saying that it's okay. And I felt so sorry for the other family, very, very sorry.
HILLARD: Pepe's Taco Stand is stone's throw from the sand. It's a popular local hangout and a place where these days they eye reporters wearily. Surfer Casey Grant(ph) says yeah, he knew Brandon and like everyone else he's feeling...
Mr. CASEY GRANT: Just sorrow and nobody wants to either talk about or...
HILLARD: But make no mistake, he says, everyone in this town, from the beach to the malls that line the interstate, was touched by the tragedy.
For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.
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