Junior Diaz and Alan Mateo, Venice High Seniors, Murdered at Penmar Park One Day Before Graduation
Updated after the jump: LAPD officers say they amped security at last night's Venice High graduation ceremony, keeping an eye out for gang activity.
Originally posted June 24 at 7 a.m.
A bloody shooting at Penmar Park yesterday shook east Venice.
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Of three teens who were hit around 4:10 p.m., friends on Twitter and comment boards identify the two fatalities as Salvador "Junior" Diaz, 18, and Alan Mateo, 19, who they say were seniors at Venice Senior High School (located just one mile south of the park).
[Update: "Diaz had attended the Venice Skills Center and was already enrolled in a junior college," reports City News Service.] .LAPD Captain Gary Walters told LA Weekly reporter Dennis Romero at the crime scene that the third victim "will be fine."
A girls' softball game between two other L.A. high schools was set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Walters said the Venice High teens had come to the field to celebrate their graduation.
The iconic VHS campus is best known as Rydell High from "Grease" and the classroom setting for Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" video -- as well as the backdrop for "American History X."
So, to memorialize its rich Hollywood history, campus authorities were planning a special 100th-anniversary movie night on Watson Field this Friday, followed by a weekend of shows, parades and other grad activities.
But Diaz and Mateo won't be present for the ceremony or the celebration. One died at the scene yesterday, and the other at a nearby hospital. Says Maritza Escobar via Twitter:
Captain Walters told the Weekly yesterday that the shooting victims were hanging out at the field when an unidentified assailant walked up and fired at least nine shots from a 9mm handgun.
The teens had presumably just walked from Venice High to the park:
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Marymount High School softball coach Dave Clark told the Weekly that his girls dropped to the ground when they heard the gunshots. He says another female coach at the field gave the first teen to die CPR for "10 to 15 minutes," then wrapped her jacket around the non-fatal victim's leg wound.
To the far right, you can see the young man who died at the scene -- 18-year-old Diaz.
Captain Walters said the LAPD was treating the shooting as "gang-related." Indeed, all gang detectives from the Pacific Division were at the scene.
But Frank Diaz, a man standing in as umpire for the girls' softball team, said the victims "were pretty clean cut." He said he didn't think they were gangsters or thugs. Diaz and Mateo's friends, in response to news reports, have taken to the Internet to defend the deceased. A Weekly commenter called Cypher508x says, "THESE 2 GUYS WHERE NOT GANG MEMBERS THEY WHERE MY FRIENDS." And Twitter user Ally Klein writes:
Police believe the shooter may have fled in a silver Volkswagon. One teen softball player described him as a thin Latino guy with baggy pants, according to Patch.
Did you know Junior Diaz or Alan Mateo, or witness the shooting? Please share below. For the original Weekly report, see "Venice Shooting Leaves One Man Dead, More Wounded at Penmar Park During Girls' Softball Game."
Update: An officer at the LAPD's Pacific Division says a gang unit of more than 10 cops was deployed at the Venice High graduation last night -- "just in case the gangs came to Venice again." Grief counselors were also available for students or staff.
Heightened security made an impression on some attendees:
LAPD spokesman Richard French told City News Service yesterday that "Diaz fell from the bleachers and was pronounced dead at the scene, while "Mateo collapsed on the bleachers and was pronounced dead a short time later after being taken to a local hospital.''
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