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Family files claims in Oxnard school shooting

Times Staff Writer

The family of an Oxnard eighth-grader who was shot by a classmate at school has filed personal injury claims against the school district and county, alleging that their failure to protect the boy led to his death.

Lawrence King, 15, was shot in the head Feb. 12 at E.O. Green Junior High School. At the time, he was a ward of Ventura County, a foster child living at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for abused and troubled children in Camarillo.

His classmate Brandon McInerney, 14, was charged days later with premeditated murder and special allegations of a hate crime and firearm use. McInerney was charged as an adult. His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23, officials said.

Classmates said Lawrence and a group of boys, including McInerney, had a verbal confrontation involving Lawrence’s sexual orientation a day before the shooting. Lawrence was known to wear makeup and jewelry and had proclaimed himself gay, students said.

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The claim filed by Lawrence’s parents, Dawn and Gregory King, and his brother Rocky King last week alleges that the Hueneme School District did not enforce the school dress code and therefore failed to protect Lawrence from harm. It also alleges that the county failed to protect the boy because it “permitted him to go to public school rather than attend school at Casa Pacifica where he would be safe.”

The claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks unspecified damages against the county and school district.

District officials said they were aware of the friction between McInerney and Lawrence and had offered counseling to both.

“The school staff did nothing wrong,” Supt. Jerry Dannenberg said. “In fact, everything we have indicates they did everything right in this case. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but the school didn’t fail to do anything.”

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Dannenberg said the school enforced the dress code in accordance with California law.

Lawrence’s mother informed Child Protective Services that she was concerned her son would be hurt because of “the outward appearance of cross-dressing, wearing makeup, wearing girl’s clothing, shoes, etc.,” but did not place Lawrence in a group or foster home.

The county’s Behavioral Health Department also failed to “properly diagnose and treat” Lawrence, according to the claim.

Family representatives could not be reached for comment.

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Lawrence’s family also alleged that the county had knowledge of death threats against him at a previous school but did not protect him by enforcing the dress code.

County officials were working on their response to the claim and said they were investigating the allegations.

“From what I saw of the allegations, we don’t agree with it,” said Chuck Pode, a risk manager for Ventura County. “I anticipate we’ll probably reject the claim.”

Under state law, the county and school district have 45 days to respond to the claim. If they do not, the family may file a lawsuit.

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Dannenberg said the district has turned the claim over to its insurance company and is “waiting for direction.”

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com


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