At the Contreras house on Tuesday, administrators from the elementary school across the street arrived to give condolences to the grieving parents, immigrants from Guanajuato. A Housing Authority gardener — an African-American — rode by on a lawn mower and stopped to ask if the family needed anything. The specter of retaliation was real. “We want to do everything by the law, because that revenge thing doesn’t work. They did it, okay, that’s done,” Agustin Contreras’ aunt Gloria Cabrera said in Spanish. “We should give them the message that they shouldn’t make mothers suffer, because they have mothers, too. This time, it was our family.”
Venice High felt as normal as could be expected for a multiracial big-city school a day after a gang shooting. It was ditch day. LAPD cruisers and TV-news vans were parked out front, and extra L.A. Unified police surveyed the courtyards from their bikes. Military recruiters cruised the hallways, and on the lawn outside, brown-skinned punks toted guitars and young reggaeton adherents played with their ring tones. Students gathered around a makeshift altar on a patch of grass, where balloons tied to candles read in black marker: “R.I.P. BUGS.”
Principal Jan Davis, known as a patient, levelheaded character, was seen stepping away from the altar to meet halfway with a few teenage Latino tough guys who were approaching from Venice Boulevard as a unit, dressed in baggy jeans, caps, and large, plain T-shirts.
Davis stood in the middle of the circle of boys and spoke directly to them, eye to eye.