Teens charged with manslaughter in sucker-punch attack that killed Moreno Valley student

People visit a Landmark Middle School memorial to a student who died after being punched
Vivian Ortiz and her son Christopher, 1, visit a Landmark Middle School memorial to a 13-year-old student who died after an attack there Sept. 16.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors have filed voluntary manslaughter charges against two 13-year-old boys who were arrested in connection with an assault at a Moreno Valley middle school that left a fellow student dead.

The new counts were filed Monday, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office said. The boys already were facing charges of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

They were taken into custody hours after the attack at Landmark Middle School on the afternoon of Sept. 16. Their identities have not been released because they are minors.

The beating was captured in a video that was posted to Facebook. The 13-year-old victim, who has been identified publicly only as Diego, was initially hospitalized in critical condition. He died of his injuries a little over a week later, on Sept. 24.


Authorities are investigating whether Diego had been the target of bullying before the attack.

The Landmark Middle School student, identified publicly only as Diego, died Tuesday night of injuries he suffered in the Sept. 16 attack, which was recorded on video and posted to Facebook.

Sept. 27, 2019

After Diego’s death, multiple members of the school community have come forward to share their own experiences involving campus bullying and to criticize the school’s handling of the attack. In interviews with The Times, parents and former students and staffers described a school where fights are a regular occurrence and said officials have done little to address long-simmering complaints of bullying.

Some longtime residents also pointed out similarities between the latest tragedy and an incident that took place at Landmark in October 1998, when a 14-year-old student punched a 12-year-old classmate in the head during a dispute over the use of a campus basketball court. The 12-year-old, Jerod Schroeder, later died of his injuries.

Since the latest tragedy, Landmark has hosted a vigil and multiple community meetings, some of which became heated as parents demanded to know what the Moreno Valley Unified School District was doing to combat bullying.

The middle school has assigned counselors, therapists and behavioral specialists to speak with students, staff and parents, Anahi Velasco, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Thursday in an email. Officials also are “working diligently” to review and update safety and security protocols, as well as districtwide bullying and harassment policies, she said.


District officials have not responded to requests for comment about complaints from parents, their reports of endemic bullying or penalties for students who are involved in violence.

One of the boys who was arrested denied the charges during an initial hearing Wednesday. He’s scheduled for a pretrial hearing Nov. 1. The other boy is due in court for a pretrial hearing Oct. 15.