District Vindicates 2 School Policemen Involved in Melee

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The head of the Los Angeles school district's police force said Monday that two off-duty officers--who were involved in a knife and gun melee at a Northridge party at which one of the officers and two other men were wounded--did nothing improper.

Herbert Graham, administrative officer in charge of the 300-member Los Angeles Unified School District police force, said the weekend incident was being investigated jointly by school police and the Los Angeles Police Department. No suspects have been arrested, police said.

School Police Officer Doug Theus, 25, a guest at the party, was in serious but stable condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center with a gunshot wound, police said. Officer Donald Norek, 28, also a guest, was uninjured.

"At this point, we feel that neither one of our officers did anything inappropriate, and their behavior was well in line with what we expect from any professional law enforcement person," Graham said.

Graham said school police officers carry weapons for protection when off duty, as do many law enforcement officers.

The surprise birthday party swelled to nearly 100 people, including a large number of uninvited gang members who left their graffiti markings behind, neighbors said Monday.

Shortly before midnight Saturday, police stopped at the house in the 8300 block of Tunney Avenue after complaints by neighbors of noise and drinking in the street, said neighbor Tom Lassater. Lassater said he was nervous about young men gathering before his house wearing gang garb.

Less than an hour later, Lassater and Jack Young, another neighbor, said they heard shots and screaming.

Theus and Norek were apparently assaulted by several people while trying to break up a fight, police said.

During that fight, Todd Seidler, 23, was stabbed, and Juan Baraza, 25, was shot, police said. Both were in stable condition at the Northridge hospital, police said.

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