Student Averi Laskey, 13, said she had known King since grammar school and liked him. She said that only in the last two weeks had he begun dressing in a feminine manner.
Laskey said King was happy at Casa Pacifica, although he had to take a long bus ride to and from school every day. He said he grew up in a troubled home, she said.
"He never felt like he had a family, but he told me when he got to Casa Pacifica that he had one there," Laskey said.
Laskey said she also knew McInerney and had shared an English honors class with him.
"Everyone knows this was wrong," she said of the shooting. "You don't think of your friend as being a killer. You don't think of your friend as a hater. That's what's weird about this. . . . I don't think he quite knew what he was doing."
Authorities said McInerney sneaked a handgun into school on the day of the shooting, but they have not disclosed how he got the firearm.
McInerney's family lives in the south Oxnard neighborhood near E.O. Green school. Court records show that his father, Bill McInerney, has had brushes with the law in recent years.
In 2000, he pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace in July, and a few months later to a single count of domestic abuse. McInerney was given 10 days in jail and 36 months' probation for the abuse conviction, records show.
In 2002, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving and being an unlicensed driver. He served five days in jail and was fined.
The case is drawing attention from a growing number of gay rights groups, which said they would be watching developments closely.
"In the 15-year history of this organization, this is the first time we've seen the district attorney act this swiftly and clearly to say 'This will not be tolerated,' " said Jay Smith, executive director of the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
"We're assuming that the hate crime component has to do with [King's] sexuality," Smith said. "Because of that, we are very eager to see the district attorney follow through."
Smith said King had participated in Friday night rap sessions at the alliance's offices in Ventura. The sessions are for youths ages 13 to 23 regardless of their sexual orientation, Smith said.
Smith said the middle school and the district must go beyond providing general and vague lessons on diversity. "It's more than just education; it's about acceptance, not just tolerance," he said.
"The big question I have is: Was the school equipped to have a student like Larry in attendance?" Smith said.
Hueneme School District officials said they were aware of friction between the two boys and had offered counseling to both.
Times staff writers Paul Pringle and Gregory W. Griggs contributed to this report.