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Gang Rivalry Suspected in Shots Fired at School Bus

Times Staff Writer

In an apparent gang-related attack, shots were fired Wednesday afternoon at a Los Angeles school bus carrying eight students in Carson, but no one was injured in the attack, authorities said.

One suspect was in custody and another was being sought, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said.

The bus was traveling from James Fenimore Cooper High School in San Pedro and was near the end of its route when the shooting occurred shortly before 1 p.m. at Avalon Boulevard and Cactus Lane, Deputy Van Mosley said.

“The first round ricocheted off the inside walls and knocked off the driver’s cap,” said Ria Parody, a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman.

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Four other shots struck the outside of the bus.

Mosley said the shots were fired from behind a wall near the intersection.

Driver Calls Police

The driver, Joe Allen, 59, quickly drove away from the scene of the shooting before stopping to call police.

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Based on information provided by witnesses, deputies captured a 17-year-old youth about four hours later near the scene of the shooting and took him to the Carson sheriff’s station. Deputies were still questioning the youth late Wednesday.

A second teen-ager believed involved in the incident was being sought, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ernie Roop said the incident was apparently gang-related.

A .38-caliber handgun was believed used in the shooting, Parody said.

Deputies declined to say whether it had been recovered.

Cooper High School Principal Warren Hockenbary said school officials had been warned earlier in the day of a possible gang-related attack on the bus.

“A couple of students heard talk on the bus this morning that something was going to go down between a couple of students here who claim to be in a gang,” Hockenbary said.

Two students rumored to be the targets of the attack were taken off the bus before it left the school and picked up by relatives, the principal said.

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A school district police officer was stationed at Avalon and Sepulveda boulevards where school officials were told that the attack was to occur, Hockenbary said. The bus dropped off students at the intersection without incident, however, and the driver proceeded, the principal said. The shooting took place a few blocks farther along the route.

Allen, a driver for the district for 12 years, said in a telephone interview from his South-Central Los Angeles home that he had just dropped off a group of students at a housing project when the shooting erupted.

“All I could hear was shots firing,” Allen said. “The kids were screaming and hollering. They got off the seats and down on the floor.”

Allen did not see the attackers, but he said his passengers saw two youths jump over a fence and begin firing at the bus.

The eight students aboard, ranging in age from 14 to 17, were questioned by deputies and released to their parents.

Hockenbary said he had the district tint the windows of the bus last year because “the kids have a bad habit of throwing gang signs” on the bus.

The principal theorized that the darkened windows may have saved the students from injury.

“You can’t see the inside of the bus too well from the outside,” Hockenbary said, adding that the eight students were sitting in the rear seats and most of the rounds struck near the front of the bus. “That may have protected them.”

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About 18 to 20 gangs and gang factions claim to be represented at Cooper, a continuation school, the principal said. Students are from throughout southern Los Angeles and Carson, he said.

“Our job is to emphasize the neutrality of the school.” Hockenbary said. “The worst thing we will have around here is a fistfight or name calling. This is really unusual.”

Having escaped with only a bullet hole in his cap, Allen said he planned to take a few days off.

“All of us were very fortunate,” he said. “When you look at the bus, it’s amazing that we got out of there without anybody being hurt.”

Times staff writer Nieson Himmel contributed to this article.


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