Teen killed crossing street after L.A. schools closed over threat was 'awesome student'

A 17-year-old student was struck and killed by a city service truck Tuesday morning as he was crossing a Highland Park street not far from his charter high school.

The crash occurred after the Los Angeles Unified School District closed all campuses because of a threat sent to several school board members.

The county coroner identified the student as Andres Perez of Montebello.

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Andres, who an administrator said was en route to Los Angeles International Charter High School on Coleman Avenue, was crossing the street at Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street at about 7:30 a.m. when the L.A. city street services truck struck him, according to Officer Jane Kim of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tony Torres, the school's director of recruitment, said that "the decision to close the school came very late. So people were still heading to school."

A Los Angeles Times analysis identified Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street as a particularly problematic intersection for pedestrians, showing that 13 people were hit, two fatally, from 2002 through 2013. According to the analysis, the intersection ranked among the top 200 of more than 800 intersections identified in L.A. County as problematic.

The analysis also identified four other nearby streets that intersect with Figueroa -- York Boulevard, Avenue 59, Avenue 55 and Avenue 41 -- covering roughly a mile in Highland Park. A total of 73 people were hit and four were killed at the five intersections from 2002 through 2013. 

Muath Qagi, 28, of Fontana was driving in the area Tuesday morning when he saw something in the road -- a black shoe. And a cellphone. The AAA employee said he saw the fire trucks and ambulances. Someone was in the street.

Police had covered the body by the time he parked and stopped to watch.

He said Andres' mother was near the intersection, screaming: "My son! My son!" and laying on the ground, distraught. She tried to get closer to the body but wasn't allowed any closer, Qagi said.

"She was on the ground, just crying, screaming," he said.

A little ways away, sitting on the curb by the front of the parked truck was the driver, holding his face in his hands and crying hysterically.

The truck driver told authorities he did not see the teen, police said, but immediately stopped after the incident and tried to help Andres, who was pronounced dead by Los Angeles Fire Department officers.

Clifford Moseley, the charter school's executive director, rushed to the scene along with other administrators just after 8 a.m. Moseley said police were just starting to tape off the street when he got there.

According to Moseley, the teen and his mom had taken the Gold Line train and he had just exited while she continued on to work.

Andres had just been accepted to film school at Cal State L.A., Moseley said.

The charter school is not part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said Joseph Riser, the school's director of development, but decided to close Tuesday morning because it was near other L.A. Unified schools.

Moseley and others had gotten word from another school up the street that there was an incident with one of their students. The charter school's students wear prep school uniforms, so they're easily noticed, he said. It wasn't clear if the teen was wearing his.

Andres' sister had gone to the charter school, too, and her father was picking her up Tuesday after her return from a mission trip in Mexico.

Moseley said Andres "was an awesome student."

The school's roughly 240 students come from mostly low-income, working-class families, and "his family was one of those stories -- they were looking for something better."

"He was a very good student. Very popular," Moseley said. "Good kid."

LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar said the truck's driver was a 27-year employee of the city who was being "fully cooperative" with investigators. Aguilar described the driver as being "very distraught about what has happened, as anyone would be."

The truck, the detective said, is used to move heavy machinery but had nothing on its bed.

The teen's family was with the L.A. mayor's crisis team, Aguilar said, adding that police were seeking witnesses. She said there is "no indication this is anything other than an accident."

Aguilar said it's unclear who had the green light.

Late Tuesday morning, the teen's body still lay on Figueroa, an orange tarp covering it. Next to the body was a black backpack.

People stood around studying the scene, and police examined the tires of the truck. One teen girl walked up and, seeing the body, put both her hands to her mouth and gasped.

One LAPD officer on the scene said Andres had his cellphone and was wearing headphones as he walked in the intersection.

The teen's grandparents talked with investigators on the street after the body had been moved, leaving a large pool of blood.

An officer handed the grandfather Andres' black backpack. The bag was open next to the body earlier and had a red binder full of papers poking out.

Times staff writers Veronica Rocha and Armand Emamdjomeh contributed to this report.

For breaking news in California, follow @haileybranson on Twitter.

MORE ON THE LAUSD THREAT:

L.A. defends response to threat that New York dismissed as a hoax

A timeline of how the Los Angeles school district told parents to keep their kids home

L.A. schools threat disrupts many people's daily routines

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with the name of the victim.

1:23 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from the scene.

12:39 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from a driver who passed the scene.

12:22 p.m.: This article was updated with information on the intersection where the crash occurred and comments from an L.A. police detective.

11:43 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from school administrators.

10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details from the scene.

This article was originally published at 10:49 a.m.

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