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February 22, 2008

Teen charged with hate crime for killing gay classmate

Oxnard, California--Almost 1,000 people, mostly teenagers, marched on February 16 to promote tolerance and peace after a 15-year-old gay boy was shot to death in school.

Lawrence King, an eighth grader who identified as gay and sometimes wore makeup, high heels and other feminine attire to E. O. Green Junior High School, was shot in the head in the computer lab at his school on February 12, a day after he had a verbal exchange with 14year-old Brandon McInerney and some of his friends.

King, who was living in a shelter for troubled and abused youths, was a frequent victim of anti-gay taunting after he came out.

After the shooting, McInerny was charged with attempted murder, with enhancements for a hate crime and using a firearm. King was declared brain dead on February 13, but kept alive on a ventilator pending organ donation. Once the ventilator was shut off, the main charge was increased to first-degree murder.

When brain death was declared, his family gave consent for organ donation.

“I think that’s what he would have wanted,” his father, Greg King, said.

Courtney LaForest, one of the organizers of the march in honor of King, told the Los Angeles Times, “We were expecting maybe 100 or 200 people.”

“I didn’t know Larry. A lot of people here didn’t know him,” she told the newspaper. “We are saying you don’t need to accept people who are gay, but you should tolerate them.”

According to Erin Mings, a friend of King’s, “Every corner he turned around, people were saying, ‘Oh, my God, he’s wearing makeup today.’ When people came up and started punking him, he just stood up for himself.

A possible motive for McInerny’s alleged actions emerged at the march.

Another of King’s friends, who identified himself only as Jeremiah, said that King recently told McInerny that he had a crush on him.

“I see no point in shooting someone for telling them that you like them,” the teen said.

Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg, whose Hueneme School District near Los Angeles contains E.O. Green, suggested that schools in the district support the event.

“We forget the goodness that is in most of our kids,” he said. “This tremendous turnout by kids is an expression of their voices, their opinions.”

Similar events continue to be held across the country. A February 22 vigil in Cincinnati is slated to begin at 7 pm at the Xavier University clock tower. For more information, call Josh Wagoner at 513-484-5656.


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