3 Student Protesters Arrested in Looting

Times Staff Writer

Three Canoga Park High School students caught stealing candy from a gas station during an antiwar protest last week were arrested on petty theft charges and sent to other schools, authorities said.

Los Angeles police also warned Thursday that arrests are imminent for other teenagers identified in security camera footage and a newspaper photograph ransacking shelves March 5 at a Mobil gas station convenience store at Topanga Canyon and Victory boulevards.

More than 600 students ditched afternoon classes to march in a nationwide antiwar protest. Of those, school officials estimate that a dozen teenagers were involved in the theft of candy bars and cupcakes at the mini-mart. A handful also vandalized the store, causing $500 in damage.

"They're not bad kids," said Roland L'Heureux, a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division. "They just went awry. However, they still need to take responsibility for what they did."

The three students arrested -- two boys and a girl, ages 15, 16 and 17 -- were ordered to appear within 60 days at Sylmar Juvenile Court, police said.

Canoga Park High Principal Dennis Thompson said punishment is being handed down this week at the 2,300-student campus. The 12 students identified as stealing are being transferred to other high schools as a disciplinary action.

More than a dozen of the students shown looting in a front-page photograph in a local paper were suspended for one day last Friday, Thompson said.

All students involved in the antiwar demonstration were marked truant for three class periods, he said. "They have a right to protest," Thompson said, "but they did not have permission to leave campus."

Earlier this week, a handful of students bearing flowers apologized to the store owner, saying that the looters do not represent them or the school.

"I didn't tell them to do that," Thompson said. "It came from the bottom of their hearts. The owner has been a sweetheart of a man."

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