Three weeks after a near-fatal attack on a black teen-ager, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced Tuesday it is recommending that the district attorney charge several of the alleged assailants with assault with a deadly weapon and participating in a racial hate crime.
Assistant Sheriff Dennis La Ducer said Tuesday the department has referred the case to the district attorney for a variety of possible charges--ranging from fighting to assault with a deadly weapon--against a total of 12 people, including five of the victim’s friends.
Sheriff’s officials would not publicly identify the suspects because they have not been charged, nor would they specify which individuals could face the more serious charges in connection with the Aug. 6 beating that left 15-year-old Amber Jefferson severely battered.
Authorities said the attack apparently was sparked by a confrontation between one of Amber’s friends and another girl over a boyfriend. Violence erupted when several men, some with baseball bats, arrived at the scene of the argument, according to sheriff’s deputies. They fought Amber’s friends, some of whom had armed themselves with boards, according to authorities. Amber suffered a broken jaw and a 5 1/2-inch-long gash on the left side of her face during the melee.
Family members and community leaders, who had criticized the department for not making an arrest in the case, reacted coolly to Tuesday’s announcement. “All of these factors can’t be erased by this gesture,” said Mark Ridley Thomas, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which has been monitoring the case.
The Sheriff’s Department said its investigation took time because of many conflicting statements made by the large number of witnesses.