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16-Year-Old Pleads Not Guilty : Holdup Suspect Was Star Student

Times Staff Writer

A 16-year-old boy who was once a leading student and athlete on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in Sylmar Juvenile Court to charges of robbing a savings and loan and stealing two cars.

The Taft High School student and a classmate of the same age were arrested last week on suspicion of robbing an Encino Savings & Loan Assn. branch on May 23 while dressed to resemble police officers. The two pointed a handgun and a device similar to a cattle prod at tellers, police said.

The cars thefts the first youth was charged with occurred on May 16 and May 22.

Police also expect the youths, who are both from Tarzana, to be charged in the December armed robbery of a Barclay’s Bank in Encino and in one other car theft. Police also are investigating whether the two were involved in a string of recent restaurant and market thefts.

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‘Thrills’ Called Motive

Police have quoted the youths as saying they committed the robberies for the “thrills,” “kicks,” and for the money, which police estimate totaled $6,000 to $7,000.

Arraignment of the second youth was delayed until June 24. Both are being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.

Citing the use of the gun, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jerry J. Bowes said that, when the second youth is arraigned, he will seek to have the two tried as adults.

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On a motion from defense attorneys at the first youth’s Tuesday arraignment, Juvenile Court Judge Burton S. Katz ordered attorneys in the case and parents of both youths not to speak to reporters.

But an interview with the principal at a mid-Valley private school that the youth arraigned Tuesday had attended indicated that the once-outstanding teen-ager plunged into trouble suddenly.

Won Academic Awards

The youth had been a high achiever in the seventh and eighth grades, winning academic awards, scoring in the top 10% of his class on achievement tests and being elected student body treasurer. He had spent two years at a Malibu baseball camp and was involved in several other sports, according to the principal, who requested anonymity.

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“He was bright,” said the principal, noting that as the boy started the ninth grade during the 1982-83 school year, his test scores remained high. But, as the year progressed, his grades in algebra and French dipped below the school average, and the boy was not readmitted the following fall.

The youth enrolled at Taft in Woodland Hills, where his academic problems continued, said one of his math teachers, who asked not to be identified. He “had the ability” but “didn’t try” and was “uncooperative” in class, eventually failing the subject, the teacher said.

Called ‘Obnoxious’

Students at Taft who knew the boy said he had threatened smaller students on several occasions and sometimes wore an electrical stun device on his belt to school. “He was obnoxious,” one student said.

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In a recent interview, Detective Ed Pikor used similar terms to describe the student, who is about 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He was “cocky” and “boisterous,” Pikor said. “It’s very unusual to see a kid who is obviously intelligent and well-spoken to come up with that kind of air to him.”

But Pikor and Taft students described the youth still awaiting arraignment as being friendly and quiet.


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