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Student gets 21 years for shooting gay classmate

The father of a gay Oxnard junior high school student spilled his rage in a Ventura courtroom Monday, telling the convicted killer that he could not forgive him for shooting his son "with the precision of a cold-blooded assassin."

Greg King, reading a biting four-page statement to the court before Brandon McInerney was sentenced to 21 years in state prison, called jurors "incompetent" for failing to reach a verdict in the September murder trial, criticized the media for its coverage of the high-profile case and heaped blame on school officials for failing to watch over his son's well-being.

When jurors were unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial, McInerney agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and manslaughter. Under the terms of the plea bargain, the 17-year-old will not be eligible for early release, meaning he will be 39 when he is released.

McInerney had originally been charged with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime. But jurors were torn between murder and manslaughter, and several said they came to believe that McInerney had been tormented to the breaking point by Larry King's flirting.

With the tall, gangly McInerney seated a few feet away and showing no emotion, King lashed out at the teenager, calling him "a white supremacist assailant" who had been given the break "Larry never got" by jurors.

The father, though, reserved his harshest words for the Hueneme Elementary School District, which operates the junior high school where his 15-year-old son was shot twice in the back of the head on Feb. 12, 2008, by McInerney in front of stunned classmates.

Educators knew that his son had a history of acting provocatively for attention, yet they did nothing to stop King after he started going to E.O. Green Junior High School in women's high-heeled boots and makeup and began aggressively flirting with boys, the father said. The middle school student had been removed from his home for unspecified reasons and was in foster care.

Instead of protecting him from his "poor impulse control," King's father said, "they enabled and encouraged him to become more and more provocative," putting him in an unsafe position.

Though he holds McInerney responsible for shooting his son, King said the school's response since the shooting has been despicable.

District leaders have made no changes in policy or procedures, saying they are unnecessary because the school's staff followed the law in allowing Larry to augment his school uniform with women's accessories. To date, no formal changes have been made, although the school district paid $25,000 toward a $255,000 civil lawsuit settlement for King's family.

"It is obvious the school did something wrong," King spat out at the hearing. "Rather than learning from it and striving to make a safer environment for our children, they hid behind lawyers."

McInerney's neck grew flushed as King spoke. The teenager, whose feet were shackled and who wore a white T-shirt and baggy blue pants, declined to make a statement. But his attorney, Scott Wippert, said his client was remorseful.

"He has stated repeatedly that if he could go back and take back his act, he would do it in a heartbeat," Wippert said as his client sat silently. "He lives with this every day, every night."

The attorney said McInerney also apologized to the King family, to his own family and to classmates in the computer lab where he pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of a backpack and shot King at point-blank range. Some of his former classmates were in court Monday, wiping tears from their eyes.

Several jurors also were in court Monday, wearing "Save Brandon" bracelets.

During his remarks, King brushed off jurors as being "incompetent," drawing head shakes from some of the jurors seated near the McInerney family. Later, referring to some jurors' unwillingness to convict McInerney, King said: "I guess P.T. Barnum was correct, 'a sucker is born every minute.' "

Judge Charles Campbell said he felt compelled to defend the jurors.

"I have nothing but praise for those jurors," he said. "They reached what they thought was an honest and true decision based on what they saw and heard."

At the conclusion of the hourlong hearing, McInerney, a wisp of facial hair sprouting from his chin, stood and, surrounded by sheriff's deputies, mouthed "I love you" to his mother before being led to a holding cell.

His mother sobbed.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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