A 17-year-old boy died after he was punched and stomped repeatedly by up to 10 youths at a Harbor City high school Thursday as horrified fellow students looked on.
Los Angeles police later arrested five male teen-agers in the killing of Narbonne High School student Shazeb Andleeb, who was attacked in a school hallway before falling and hitting his head on a concrete floor, witnesses said.
“I wish I [had been] closer so I could have jumped in to help him,” said Arol McFadden, 18, a cartoonist for the school newspaper who saw the beating as he walked to a class about 10 a.m. “But it happened so fast. It was 10 seconds and it was over. There were so many guys, I felt like a deer in headlights.”
The killing shocked many students and teachers at the school, known for its programs for gifted students.
“While we consider ourselves a very safe campus, for something like this to happen, you have got to understand our society as a whole,” said Principal Pat Donahoe, adding that the killing was the first on campus.
Police and school officials said they were unsure why Andleeb, a slender 11th-grader of Pakistani descent, was assaulted. But students who saw the incident said he was confronted by a group of Latino students in the hall outside his U.S. history class.
McFadden said one youth thrust himself at Andleeb and yelled: “What did you say to me? What were you saying?” before another boy punched Andleeb in the face.
Others began pummeling him against a row of lockers until he fell, striking his head hard on the floor. At that point, his attackers began kicking Andleeb, McFadden said.
“I don’t think they realized he was unconscious, but they were kicking him, and then they ran off,” McFadden said. “One of the girls went up to them afterward and said, ‘Why did you do this?’ And one of the students said, ‘Because he was talking s--- to me. And if somebody was talking s--- to you, you would do the same thing.’ ”
Student Braulio Hernandez, 17, said a friend of his is one of the suspects and that Andleeb’s attackers had been planning some sort of confrontation with him.
On Wednesday, Hernandez said, “I overheard them say, ‘Yeah, we’ll go get this guy.’ They were planning it. I overheard them in the hall.”
During the beating, Andleeb “was shaking,” Hernandez said. “He turned blue. They stomped on his [Adam’s] apple.” When the attackers saw how badly Andleeb was injured, Hernandez said, they “jumped the fence and left.”
Hernandez said Andleeb was not known for provoking trouble, but “he talked back to a lot of people. He was a cool person.”
“They were just a bunch of stupid people,” Hernandez said of the suspects. “The way I see it . . . they are all weird in the head.”
Social studies teacher Tom Fink performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Andleeb as he lay on the floor, but he remained motionless. Paramedics sent to the campus about 10:30 a.m. took the boy to Bay Harbor Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Bob Collis, a Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman.
Los Angeles Police Lt. John Dunkin said a dispute arose Wednesday between Andleeb and other youths, but it apparently was not related to gang or racial tensions. He said four of those arrested are Narbonne students and the fifth attends school elsewhere. Two of the suspects are 18, two are 17, and one is 15.
Police identified the 18-year-olds as Christian Bremmer of Lomita and Rene Nievas of Harbor City. The other suspects were not identified because they are juveniles, police said. All five suspects were booked on suspicion of murder.
Teacher Alison Rittger, the school’s journalism adviser, said that in a form he recently filled out, Andleeb indicated he spoke four languages, was interested in computer graphics and played football and basketball.
“I’m kind of friendly, serious and moody,” Andleeb wrote. “The best thing about myself is that I get along with everybody.”
Senior Raquel Delgadillo, 18, said about a dozen students of Pakistani descent attend the school, and that they are a tightknit group. Narbonne’s student body is more than 50% Latino, but it also includes white, African American, Asian and Pacific islands students.
Delgadillo said that when the school held a special “culture day” in April, she staffed a booth next to one occupied by Andleeb, who was wearing a white tunic.
“I told him, ‘That’s cute,’ and he said thank you,” she said. “He looked quiet. But when we had culture day, he was really proud.”
School officials announced Andleeb’s death on the school public address system shortly after lunch and offered counseling to students upset by the slaying.
Times staff writers Jack Cheevers and Ted Johnson contributed to this story.