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Slain Student’s Parents Accuse School of Lapses

Times Staff Writer

As police continued searching for the killer of a Venice High student, the victim’s parents said Wednesday that the school ignored a warning of potential gang violence, putting the campus in danger.

“The school knew very well that this was going to happen,” said Monica Cabrera, mother of 17-year-old Agustin Contreras, in Spanish. “And they didn’t do anything.”

Luis Carrillo, the family’s lawyer, said Cabrera was referring to statements made by another parent, who reportedly told a Venice assistant principal of gang threats to retaliate against her own child about two weeks ago. But the high school didn’t appear to respond to her fears or increase campus security as a precaution, Carrillo added.

That alleged lapse, coupled with concern about how the school had portrayed the shooting, was the focus of the family’s news conference two days after Agustin was killed. Standing in front of the school, Cabrera was flanked by her sister and husband, who initially stood off to the side, unable to hold back sobs.

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Carrillo said he had just met the other mother and her child Wednesday morning, but he declined to reveal their names for their safety.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials said this was the first they had heard of the woman’s concerns. “The principal has asked all of her assistant principals to compile and review all of their recent student referrals to see if they have any kind of claim like that,” said Susan Cox, a district spokeswoman.

The Contreras family also said that a school letter explaining the shooting to parents maligned their son’s character. The letter described the incident as “gang related,” but failed to distinguish between Agustin, a football player with no gang affiliation, and his killer, Carrillo said.

“They’re defaming their son’s memory,” Carrillo said of school officials. He said Venice High should distribute another letter clarifying the matter.

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School police officers were visible throughout the campus Wednesday afternoon, with six officers in front on motorcycles and six more who joined the two who are usually stationed at the school, said Sgt. Danny Stevens.

Cox said the extra security would probably remain for the rest of the week, especially because the shooter was still at large.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl proposed a $50,000 reward for the capture of Agustin’s killer and a strategy for averting further violence on campus.


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