Did a race-baiting Facebook post lead seven black teens to smash in the face of a random Latino 15-year-old on March 14?
L.A. County Sheriff's Detective Chris Bergo says that while interviewing the seven suspects, one of them -- who attends Cactus Middle School in Palmdale -- "talked about a Facebook post where Hispanics were going to beat up the blacks."
So they allegedly went to the Cactus Middle area looking for a fight...
... and came across a Latino student who attends Desert Sands Charter High School about a mile-and-a-half east.
"After talking to all the subjects involved, none of them admitted any kind of gang membership," says Bergo. He says it couldn't have been a personal beef from school, either: "Nobody knew this kid."
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The fight went down outside Cactus, on a desolate stretch of cracked road where the victim was walking home from school.
This report from the Palmdale Sheriff's station describes the attack:
The 15-year-old victim in this assault was walking home from school near the 3200 Block of East Avenue R-8, when a group of up to ten Black juveniles approached him and challenged him to a fight.
The suspects surrounded the victim and began punching him while several other juveniles watched.
The victim continued to defend himself from the group of suspects until he fell to the ground. The suspects continued to assault him by punching and kicking him in the face and head. The victim was finally able to get to his feet and escape the onslaught of the attackers.
He was outnumbered -- and the beatdown was gruesome.
After the victim dragged himself home, he was rushed to an Antelope Valley emergency room and treated for "multiple kicks to his head resulting in swelling and shoe impressions left in his skin. "
According to Detective Bergo, he's now "missing his front tooth, and one of the other teeth in his mouth was bent backwards."
(Bergo adds that the 15-year-old recently visited "another country" to see about getting his teeth fixed, as dental work is cheaper there.)
Race was apparently the motivating factor in the attack. One of the suspects admitted in an interview that he had beaten the Latino kid "because he was Hispanic," says the detective. And during the fight -- a video of which somebody posted to YouTube but has since taken down -- one of the black middle-schoolers slurs, "Fuck Mexicans."
Three of the seven alleged attackers are charged with "assault with a deadly weapon," says Bergo, and the L.A. County District Attorney is still contemplating more serious charges of "hate crime."
So is this an isolated incident, or a recurring theme in Palmdale?
Although Bergo says "there's not too much of this that we've seen" in the area, he adds that the racial tension does appear to go "back and forth" at Cactus Middle School.
One commenter at the Antelope Valley Times who lives in this northeastern tip of the county speculated last week that "even if they catch the kids who did it, nothing will happen to them. Meantime, the video will be on Facebook or YouTube."
She's right about the video part. Here's one from last summer:
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And here's one from Palmdale High, which inherits its student population from Cactus Middle.