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Deputies Patrol Campus After Racial Brawls

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Patrol cars circled the Canyon High School campus and a sheriff’s helicopter hovered overhead Wednesday in the wake of two brawls that erupted near the school Tuesday between alleged white supremacists and students of various races.

Rumors of more fights were rampant Wednesday morning, causing school officials to request the deputies’ presence when school adjourned at 12:15 p.m. because of a previously scheduled half-day, said Thomas Gibson, school resource deputy for the area.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Station spent about an hour outside the Canyon Country school, stopping and searching numerous cars. Several knives and other weapons were confiscated from at least one of car.

Law officers also converged on the parking lots of two adjacent fast-food restaurants several blocks away from the campus, where as many as 80 students had gathered because of the rumored fight.

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“All of those kids were there for that reason,” said Deputy John Hudson, a member of the station’s Career Offenders Burglary Robbery Apprehension (COBRA) team, which handles gang-related crimes. “There were rumors of different places where this was supposed to happen and that was one of them.”

Deputies dispersed the students without incident from the parking lots at the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Crossglade Avenue, and no other serious problems were reported during the three hours that sheriff’s officials patrolled the area.

The weapons seized--including kitchen knives and a pool ball stuffed in the toe of a sock meant to be swung at an opponent--were described by deputies as makeshift items being carried by uneasy students wanting to defend themselves.

No arrests were made, with sheriff’s officials stating they were more interested in preventing more violence.

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“We’ve been stopping cars not to accuse people, but we’re saying ‘If you’re thinking of doing anything, stay away, because we know who you are,’ ” Gibson said.

Students said a fight probably would have occurred Wednesday at one of several locations near the school were it not for the officers’ presence. But they said the deputies’ action simply delays the inevitable.

“It’s a good idea, but it’s not going to accomplish anything,” said Manny Gallegos, 17, a junior at Canyon, who claimed to have been attacked by several youths Tuesday. “They’ll bust the wrong people, because people will start to go crazy, but they aren’t the ones who started this.”

The tensions were apparently sparked by a fight between two students over the weekend, which led to altercations among 20 to 30 youths outside a home and in a parking lot during lunchtime Tuesday. No serious injuries were reported, but rocks were thrown and several cars were vandalized with crowbars and other blunt weapons, authorities said.

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A group, possibly consisting of skinheads or other types of white supremacists, fought with students of various races, including whites, African Americans and Latinos. Sheriff’s officials said the multiracial group was partially made up of members from various gangs, but the tensions are not considered gang-related.

Most of the alleged attackers were not Canyon High students, school and sheriff’s officials said.

Deputies were on the lookout for the suspected attackers but none were spotted, said Sgt. Lee White, head of the COBRA team.

“They obviously got the word we’re after them,” he said.

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Sheriff’s officials said they will patrol the area surrounding the school again today if needed, but a final decision had not been made Wednesday evening.

Canyon High has avoided serious altercations this year, although students said racism among some students is common. Principal Mike Allmandinger said he did not anticipate Tuesday’s fight, but was not surprised by it.

“On any school campus with 2,300 students there’s going to be a couple of kids who don’t like one another,” he said. “In today’s society that means their friends don’t like them either.”

Tuesday’s fights were not the first racially-motivated incidents at Santa Clarita Valley schools in recent months.

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In December, a black student at Saugus High School was assaulted by several white students shouting racial slurs a day after the victim made a speech about ending racial tensions. And Placerita Junior High School in Newhall was one of several locations where racist flyers degrading Latinos have been discovered in recent months.


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