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Victim of School Shooting Mourned in Anger, Sorrow

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Shean Ensley was supposed to go on a long country drive with his father Saturday to celebrate getting his driver’s license and his upcoming high school graduation.

Instead, he was laid to rest in a crypt in Inglewood, five days after he was fatally shot in a hallway at Reseda High School.

More than 1,000 friends and relatives gathered to grieve at the Figueroa Church of Christ on West 57th Street, where Michael was baptized 17 years ago. They came to mourn a youth they described as being conscientious and sensitive, who attended a San Fernando Valley school to escape the urban violence that would claim his life.

Young girls sniffled and teen-age boys rocked back and forth in their pews in silent rage and sorrow, as one speaker after another rose to the pulpit directly above Michael’s smiling senior class photo. Some railed against modern society and violence. Others softly said goodby to the youth they loved.

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“Today, I feel robbed,” one of Michael’s best friends, Kelly Gilmore, 16, told the congregation. “My friend’s mother can’t have her son back. And I can’t have my friend back. I feel robbed because Michael didn’t have the chance to cultivate his talent. His chances for the future were snatched.”

Always mindful to avoid the ever-present gangs that surrounded his Athens Heights neighborhood and the two Valley high schools he attended, Michael planned to attend Harbor College in the fall and become an aeronautical mechanic. He hoped to earn enough money to raise a family.

Police have arrested and charged Robert Heard, 15, of Panorama City with his murder. They say Michael and Robert were arguing about their rival graffiti tagging crews when Robert shot Michael once in the chest during a midmorning snack break.

But on this sunny and balmy Saturday, Michael’s friends and family had a message for the police and his killer; Michael was just a kid trying desperately to avoid the gangs, taggers and other bad elements that have infiltrated high school classrooms.

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“Don’t use code words to describe Michael; Michael was a young man who was raised right,” Minister Lawrence Murray said, looking at Margaret Ensley as the grieving mother quietly cried in the front row. “Michael was not a monster. He was not a gangster. He was just an African-American male trying to make it in this world. And what is wrong with that?”

“Mothers aren’t supposed to bury their sons,” Murray continued. “Children are supposed to bury their parents. But we have perverted the very nature of this, and that has got to stop.”


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