Hal Arthur, the Grant High School teacher who was ambushed and shot to death as he was leaving his Sherman Oaks home for school early Friday, was fascinated by books about crime and mysteries.
His own slaying--a seemingly precise, well-planned assassination--has presented police with the sort of mystery that might have been spun by his favorite crime writers: Why would a popular high school teacher become a target for murder?
Police said Saturday that they have no leads in the case. A 16-year-old Van Nuys youth who had been transferred from Grant to North Hollywood High because of disciplinary problems after a campus fight had been questioned Friday but then ruled out as a suspect, police said.
Friends and relatives say that Arthur, who owned the complete works of such crime writers as Joseph Wambaugh, had no known enemies. Ernie Blumenberg, a fellow teacher, said he could not imagine Arthur “involved in anything . . . that would get him killed.”
”. . . From what I know of him, he was just a guy who was trying to put in his time and retire,” said Frederick (Bud) Parker, another teacher.
Police said Saturday that they have no evidence to suggest that any of the 3,100 students at Grant were involved. Detective Mel Arnold said the youth questioned Friday had a “solid” alibi.
‘Waiting for Phone to Ring’
“We’re just interviewing school personnel and people who knew him, and waiting for the phone to ring,” he said.
Arnold said three detectives have been assigned to the case full time.
Arthur was attacked about 6 a.m. Friday moments after he opened the door of his car parked in front of his home in the 13900 block of Milbank Street. He was about to enter the car when an assailant with a .22-caliber semiautomatic weapon fired on him from across the street.
At least six shots were fired before the gunman sped away in a dark-colored sedan, police said. At least three bullets struck Arthur in the back.
In the wake of the slaying, teachers and administrators have begun bracing for a tough day Monday when students return to Grant High from their Easter holiday vacation.
“That’s when you’ll see some real emotion because two-thirds of the kids were out last week for Good Friday,” Parker said.
Some students already have said it will be emotionally difficult for them to return to the classroom where Arthur taught history and advised seniors, said Arthur Benveniste, a social studies teacher at Grant for 24 years.
A team of 12 district psychologists will remain at the school throughout the week to counsel students and teachers, said Shel Erlich of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Grant High administrators will meet Monday with student government representatives to determine when a memorial service will be held at the school, Erlich said.
Arthur left his body to science. There will be a memorial service at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Beth Hillel in North Hollywood.
Despite the lack of evidence implicating a student in Arthur’s murder, the shooting has alarmed teachers, who have been concerned about their safety in the wake of recent attacks on teachers, including the stabbing of a teacher at Olive Vista Junior High School in Sylmar by a student earlier this month.
‘Everyone Feels Vulnerable’
“When something like this happens, everyone feels vulnerable, " said Blumenberg, an art teacher at Grant for 25 years. “If it can happen to Hal, who was a superb teacher that everyone loved, it can happen to anyone.”
Blumenberg, a longtime friend of Arthur’s, said he is not worried about student violence but was bewildered by the slaying. “A cop at the scene told me that with no witnesses, they’re going to have to get real lucky on this one,” he said.