Two teen-agers were stabbed and two others struck by a car when an argument turned violent early Sunday in the parking lot of an Irvine fast-food restaurant said to be a gathering place for Woodbridge High School students.
One of the victims, an 18-year-old female identified by friends as a Woodbridge graduate, was hospitalized in serious to critical condition with multiple injuries. Witnesses said a car carrying a group involved in the argument struck her twice while fleeing the parking lot, dragging her along the asphalt.
The two stabbing victims, both male, were in stable condition at two hospitals. The fourth victim, who was hit by the fleeing car as he tried to rescue the female victim, was treated and released, according to friends.
Irvine police later arrested five male juveniles in a car matching the description of the suspects’ vehicle.
Some of the witnesses to the stabbing and friends of the victims returned to the Del Taco at 4820 Barranca Parkway in Woodbridge Sunday afternoon to talk about the incident. They said the fast-food restaurant is a post-party hangout for teen-agers, particularly from Woodbridge High School.
The youths are often in cliques or groups, they said, and in recent weeks there has been some “irritation” among them.
But there had been no violence until the stabbings and hit-and-run shortly after midnight Saturday, they said.
“You stand there in shock,” said Darren Malet, 18, a Woodbridge High School student who said he witnessed the incident. “You can’t believe this is going on.”
As he stood in the Del Taco parking lot Sunday afternoon, broken windshield glass littered the asphalt a few yards away, a reminder of the violence. “Some of us were feeling nauseous” after the violence, he said.
Police released no names and only sketchy information Sunday. According to a department press release, the incident occurred during a confrontation between two groups.
There were no gangs involved, police said.
“Words were exchanged, and a physical altercation ensued,” Sgt. Scott Cade said.
One assailant pulled a knife, two people were stabbed and “in an attempt to flee after the stabbings, the suspects’ vehicle struck a young man and a young woman,” he said.
The car containing the five male youths who were arrested was spotted a short time later near UC Irvine, Cade said.
Two suspects were taken to Orange County Juvenile Hall and the three others were released to parents.
Friends of the victims and witnesses filled in some details.
The altercation began when one victim, whom the witnesses identified as John DeRosa, told a group of students inside the restaurant from Irvine’s S. E. L. F. Alternative High School--a continuation school for students with special needs--to be quiet.
They all moved outside and continued to exchange words, although some witnesses thought DeRosa and the others were joking.
“All of a sudden, one guy went manic,” one friend of the victims, who asked not to be identified, said about one of the S. E. L. F. students.
DeRosa was stabbed in the lower chest but apparently did not realize it at first, others said.
Scott Ankeny, a witness, said DeRosa was apparently so excited that he did not feel the wound until after a friend, whom Ankeny identified as Adam Brescini, was also stabbed, three times in the back.
At that point, according to Ankeny, the suspects got into their car, and DeRosa started battering the vehicle with his arms, fists and feet, punching a hole in the windshield.
About the same time, the female victim, identified by friends as Eileen Shelly, leaned inside the car to ask the suspects why they had stabbed Brescini, the youths said.
The suspects then put their car in reverse to get out of the parking lot. That knocked Shelly down and dragged her along the asphalt, Ankeny said.
When she fell away from the car, a friend of Ankeny’s, Robbie Paul, ran to pull her out of the car’s path, he said.
Both Paul and Shelly were then hit when the suspects’ car sped forward out of the lot, Ankeny said.
Shelly was listed in serious to critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, a nursing supervisor said. Friends said that she had a broken leg, broken ribs and internal injuries, and that one of her ears was nearly ripped off. Brescini was in stable condition at that hospital.
DeRosa, whom friends said suffered a collapsed lung, was listed in stable condition at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, a spokeswoman said.
Friends said Paul suffered a broken hand, knee injuries and bruises, and was treated at a hospital and released.
Shelly, Brescini and DeRosa all graduated from Woodbridge High School last year, and Paul is a senior there this year, Ankeny said.
Ankeny, 17, a junior, and Malet, 18, a senior, said high school students often go to the Del Taco on weekend nights after parties break up. Recently there has been a bit of tension between some students in the crowd, they said.
“There’s been fistfights,” Ankeny said.
“But this is the first thing to this extreme,” Malet added.
Irvine police said altercations among youths are not uncommon, but they seldom get out of hand.
“A couple of high schoolers squaring off against each other, that happens a lot of times in a lot of places,” Sgt. Ron Flathers said.
Sunday’s incident was “a sad, sad situation that I’m sure nobody meant to happen.”
“It was one of those things that escalated out of control,” Sgt. Cade said. The violence was “an isolated incident that progressively got worse.”
Students gather at several fast-food restaurants in Irvine, and “there are other locations that give us more grief than that one,” Cade said of the Del Taco. “It is not a hangout or a problem area.”
Irvine Mayor Larry Agran said he was distressed to hear of the stabbing and hit-run.
“Reports of violence are always of concern,” he said. “Fortunately, with the exception of vehicular violence, we have very little in the way of serious street crime or gang violence. But I guess this is an opportunity to underscore our commitment to making sure that standard doesn’t change.”
He called the involvement of a weapon “a matter of grave concern. . . . We won’t tolerate escalating violence, whether it involves young people or older citizens, for whatever reasons.”