Inquiry Pressed in Attack With Racial Overtones

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No arrests will be made in last week's assault on a 15-year-old black girl, which may have been racially motivated, until a thorough investigation of the incident has been completed, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Monday.

Lt. Richard J. Olson said the attack was not being investigated as a racial incident, but as a criminal assault.

"It appears this started out as a verbal confrontation between two young women, maybe over a boyfriend," Olson said. "It could be that it escalated into this unfortunate tragedy after people who joined in to try to help out only made the situation worse."

Amber Jefferson, a freshman and cheerleader at Santiago High School in Garden Grove, was reported in stable condition at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. She was beaten on the head and body last

Tuesday with a baseball bat and her head was split open from the crown down to her neck, possibly by a shard of glass from a broken mirror.

Her family said Monday that they have been inundated with calls from well-wishers since news of the incident was made public Sunday. Rod Carew, the former star of the California Angels, called her to wish her well.

"She was getting calls from all over, people just wanting her to know they cared," said her aunt, Katie Jefferson.

Amber was with a white girl and three boys, a Latino and two blacks, in the parking lot of a condominium complex on Cerritos Avenue in Anaheim when the incident occurred. The white teen-ager had been arguing with another girl, who was soon joined by two young men with baseball bats.

One of the youths armed with a bat has since reported that things only got out of hand when one of the black youths made the first move. But Amber and the four people in her group say it was the two with the bats who started the violence while yelling racial slurs at them.

Amber has reported that one of the youths said to the white girl: "What are you doing with these niggers?"

Lt. Olson said investigators have had trouble getting cooperation from everyone who was at the scene that night. The incident occurred at an Anaheim address, but because it was in an unincorporated area, the Sheriff's Department is investigating.

The father of the white youth who is suspected of being Amber Jefferson's principal attacker has told police that the black youths instigated the trouble and that he joined in the fracas to protect his son. But the teen-agers with Amber said that the father joined in with racial slurs and encouraged his son in the attack.

The incident has sparked concern of a growing problem of racism against blacks in Orange County.

One woman called The Times to say that a white friend with a 5-year-old black son recently faced a threatening situation near a video arcade in Huntington Beach. Two white men armed with a board and a chain came running at them but ran away when another man approached the scene.

"We talk about adversity in this county," said Fran Williams of the Orange County Human Relations Commission. "But it takes an incident like this for people to even remember that we (blacks) are here."

A number of racially motivated crimes and incidents have occurred in Orange County in the past year or so.

Last year, a 24-year-old Westminster man who burned a wooden cross in the yard of a neighboring black family was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. The incident prompted the county's Human Relations Commission to organize a residents' support group in Westminster to respond to racial and religious violence.

Also, in La Verne last year, a Middle Eastern couple and a black man were taunted with racial slurs while they were kicked and beaten in a supermarket parking lot. Four people, including members of neo-Nazi groups in Placentia and Glendale, were arrested.

In March of this year, black and white students at Tustin High School shouted racial slurs at each other during a music contest, prompting the school to form an ethnic advisory council as a forum for resolving racial tension.

Amber Jefferson is scheduled to be released from the hospital today and will recuperate at home. Doctors say it could be two years before she has full muscle control on the side of her head.

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