California | Crime | Education | Gay Youth | Lawrence King | News

Shooting of Gay CA Student Officially Labeled a Hate Crime


Brandon McInerney, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime in the shooting death of Lawrence 'Larry' King. The charges are expected to be upgraded to murder once King is taking off his ventilator, which is keeping his body alive so that he may donate his organs. McInerney is to be tried as an adult. McInerney reportedly turned 14, which is the cutoff age to be tried as an adult, on January 24th.

McinerneyKing was shot in the head in front of a full classroom of students. It still has not been disclosed where McInerney got the gun that he snuck into the classroom.

According to King's father, when King arrived at the hospital he was making some unintelligible sounds but doctors quickly induced a coma as part of his treatment. He survived for six hours but then suffered a massive stroke, which caused his brain to swell, and ultimately, his death.

Via the AP: "[Ventura County prosecutor Maeve] Fox said she could not discuss the facts behind the allegation of a hate crime because those details of the case have not been publicly disclosed. Oxnard police have not specified a motive but said there appeared to be a personal dispute between the two. King sometimes came to school wearing makeup and high heels, eighth-grader Nicholas Cortez, 14, told The Associated Press. Another eighth-grader, Michael Sweeney, said King's appearance was 'freaking the guys out,' the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. 'He would come to school in high-heeled boots, makeup, jewelry and painted nails โ€” the whole thing,' Sweeney told the Times."

The L.A. Times reports that "classmates of the slain boy, Lawrence King, said he recently had started to wear makeup and jewelry and had proclaimed himself gay. Several students said King and a group of boys, including the defendant, had a verbal confrontation concerning King's sexual orientation a day before the killing."

The paper adds, "Because he is a minor, McInerney will remain in Juvenile Hall and be taken to the Ventura courtroom for court appearances, Fox said. He is being held in lieu of $770,000 bail. If convicted, McInerney could face 50 years to life. The hate crime enhancement would add another one to three years to his sentence."

Up top is a shot of King provided to the media by his family. His father explained that "In Port Hueneme, he used licorice sticks to catch crawdads."

The Ventura County Star reports: "He said his son was headstrong, confident, artistic and sweet. Larry King loved to sing songs by folk rock trio Crosby, Stills and Nash, and was studying 'The Star-Spangled Banner' in hopes of singing it at his younger brother's baseball games, his father said. 'He had a very gifted singing voice.' He was so good, in fact, that one of Greg King's friends โ€” unaware of the family's tragedy โ€” called Wednesday to say his son should audition for 'American Idol.'"

Oxnard school shooting called a hate crime [la times]
Charges Filed in SoCal School Shooting [ap]
Victim's family members say they will donate teen's organs [ventura county star]

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Gay Junior High Student Shot at School Declared Brain Dead [tr]
Gay Student Shot at L.A.-Area Junior High School [tr]

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  1. It sounds like justice is going to be done. Though nothing will bring the King boy back.

    But now I'm starting to feel sorry for the perp as well, who is barely out of childhood. While it was his choice to pull the trigger, and he must pay for that, he also was raised in a society in which he was taught that boys like King are not quite human. He just absorbed the poison around him. That is what we have to address.

    Posted by: Miles | Feb 15, 2008 8:23:05 AM

  2. Maybe if McInerney were drawn and quartered in public for the crime, maybe people might get a clue this is not acceptable - just a thought.

    Posted by: andrew | Feb 15, 2008 8:23:34 AM

  3. I am with you Miles and deeply disagree with you, Andrew. Even in the abstract, the idea of torturing one child in return for killing another only compounds the tragedy. That's what these were, children, and it is unnatural for children to kill each other. They need poisonous societal messages (or in their family of origin) and access to deadly weapons they have no business being anywhere NEAR. A 14 year old who kills is deeply, deeply troubled and I see no point in his being locked up for 50 years instead of getting mental help...but if that is the price, so be it. We have to address the underlying issues: the acceptabilty of portraying homosexuals as less than valued humans, the increased violence in child and teen-oriented pop culture, and the unacceptable access of people who have NO business with firearms to them. God bless the family of the young victim and the shooter tooo...may he and those around him see the utter sickness and tragedy and pointlessness of what has gone down...two young lives destroyed, all because of hate.

    Posted by: BreckROy | Feb 15, 2008 8:37:32 AM

  4. Thanks, Andy, for your important coverage!

    Posted by: Ryan Smith | Feb 15, 2008 8:43:15 AM

  5. King and his parents are Heros to me, king for coming out at such a young age, and his parents for allowing him to do so. I really hope this doesn't scare other family's from acting out on this kind of bravery.

    Posted by: L.L.W | Feb 15, 2008 8:44:25 AM

  6. What about the perp's parents? I find it really hard to believe that a kid can be capable of a crime like this without coming from a sick and twisted home environment.

    Posted by: Chris | Feb 15, 2008 8:56:03 AM

  7. True Chris. But what about the other boys who confronted King? This is an extreme result but its connected to something far more widespread in a culture that demands gender-role conformity and is smugly self-rigtheous about expressing its contempt for anythign that deviates from a "norm" that is heterosexual, male, white, "Christian," and "Conservative."

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 15, 2008 9:05:53 AM

  8. All that's going through my head right now is that Lawrence was just a kid.

    Just a fucking kid. With his whole life ahead of him.

    Christ. He was 15. Shot and killed for having a sense of self far greater than mine at that age.

    What a fucking waste.

    Oh, man. This is really getting to me.

    Posted by: tjc | Feb 15, 2008 9:21:01 AM

  9. While I do agree that our "society" and culture have allowed a 14-year-old to shoot a classmate is a serious and tragic problem, I'm not willing to let the shooter off the hook.

    At some point, no matte how twisted or demented you are, you have to take responsibility for your actions. It wasn't "society" that made McInerney bring a gun to school to shoot someone. It was his own deed.

    I'm not suggesting that any Towleroad readers are implying he should be let off easy. I'm just saying that while of course we need to fix the underlying problem -- an implicit tolerance for violence against the GLBT community -- we also need to ensure that we don't forget that responsibility for an individual's actions belongs solely to that person (outside of some very limited circumstances).

    I have no sympathy for the shooter at this time. Perhaps at some point, but not now.

    Posted by: tjc | Feb 15, 2008 9:29:50 AM

  10. wow, just when you think it's ok to be different, ugly people should not be allowed to kill beautiful people. RIP.

    Posted by: cd | Feb 15, 2008 9:38:47 AM

  11. Just to clarify, I mean "just a kid" in the sense of a tragic loss of life, not in the sense of ignorant or less valid. I hope that came through, but I know text without vocal nuance can be tricky to interpret and I want to stave off any unnecessary in-fighting.
    Like Andy touched on yesterday, the idiot lawmaker in TN and a superintendent in VA pulling "And Tango Makes Three" (the kids' book about penguins NYC Roy and Silo) are part of the problem.

    A problem that is getting our people killed.

    Posted by: tjc | Feb 15, 2008 9:40:55 AM

  12. Lawrence King's parents & family should be proud that they raised such a brave child. It takes incredible courage to risk your life just to be yourself. At age fifteen, hearing/seeing what his classmates, neighbors, most of the damn society thinks of feminine males; yes, he knew what danger he could be in, but he was determined to find & be himself. I am in awe of Lawrence King's courage, and the courage of all those like him in every culture/society they dare to be themselves in.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Feb 15, 2008 9:51:46 AM

  13. Update on what Gay American Heroes Foundation is doing as of February 15,2008:

    Friends of TowleRoad:

    "Stop the Hate in 2008" -- support Gay American Heroes Foundation

    Gay American Heroes Foundation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are acting on this horrible event, as well as many national organizations. Kevin Jennings, ED of GLSEN, made a statement yesterday and we are making one today.

    We have personally contacted HRC, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Barney Frank, Elke Kennedy and her foundation, Judy Shepard and her Foundation, Daniela Sea (the L Word), The Gill, Robert Gant, The AP, and Matt Foreman of Task Force to ask for national statements and a re-call to action of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill, which died last year.

    Our thoughts go out to the family of Lawrence King and thank them for allowing his organs to be donated to save lives. Elke Kennedy, who is on our Board of Advisors, and Sean (who was murdered) also allowed his organs to be donated which led to saving 5 lives.

    You can go to to see the work we are doing, to read about gay murders, Sean and many others, and also to learn about the "grass roots" work we are doing to "Stop Hate in 2008" by educating our communities about these senseless murders and honoring those who have died. Please consider making a donation of $25 to help us build the traveling, educational memorial and adopting a "hero." All details are on the site. We have raised over $135,000 the past 3 months and need to raise another $65,000 to secure 2 full years of travel at 25 committed Universities, to date.

    For those of you who still don't think "living out as you are" in America today is heroic, you are proved wrong, again, by Lawrence King's death and 27 other identified LGBT murders in 2007.

    Please join us to build this important project and travel with it throughout the USA to educate those who otherwise may pick up a gun one day and aim it at you!!!

    Respectfully submitted,

    Chip Arndt
    Founding Board Member

    Posted by: Chip Arndt | Feb 15, 2008 10:03:33 AM

  14. I agree wholeheartedly with Derrick's comment.

    The shooter may have been only 14, but that's certainly old enough to know that killing is wrong. It's entirely possible that he has a pretty significant mental illness going on, and that should be investigated throroughly.

    When something like this happens, we bend over backwards trying to find a reason or an explanation for such horrible violence among children so young. Sometimes, it just comes down to the combination of psychopathology and an easy target. It's horrendous, and should serve as a cautionary tale for Americans everywhere.

    Poor kid. Rest in peace.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Feb 15, 2008 10:05:19 AM

  15. There will inevitably be cases of school violence (see also: NIU), but without stricter control of firearms, the violence turns out more fatalities. While we need to work at promoting tolerance to our youth, we need to also lobby for stronger gun control laws. Perhaps we need to hold more accountable those who made the firearms accessible to the perpetrators in the first place...

    Posted by: SH | Feb 15, 2008 10:05:25 AM

  16. @SH: Don't use the word tolerance. Tolerance won't fix problems like this, it will just lessen them.

    Demand acceptance. Nothing more, nothing less.

    This story is heartbreaking. It's going to be a long day at work today...

    Posted by: Taylor | Feb 15, 2008 10:13:56 AM

  17. Sad

    Posted by: Jimmyoyo | Feb 15, 2008 10:26:59 AM

  18. "A pretty significant mental illness" smacks of an excuse.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 15, 2008 11:07:48 AM

  19. In our society, 14-year olds have ready access to guns. Also, homophobia is taught and encouraged from an early age. Its part of our societal fabric.

    So, a child kills a child.

    Let's get that unit on gay people into the California school curriculum without delay.

    Posted by: JJ | Feb 15, 2008 11:09:33 AM

  20. No, David. It's not an excuse. Mental illness is never an excuse. It's just a possible explanation for a tragedy that never should have occurred.

    It's important to remember that these are children we're talking about. I'd love to lock the shooter up and throw away the key, but he's just a child... and civilized societies do not do that to children.

    It's not very gratifying, I know. I'd love to back my car over him myself. But that is why our laws should never be dictated by an emotionally-driven mob.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Feb 15, 2008 11:15:03 AM

  21. I can't even read all the comments, but I agree with what a lot of you said.

    There are two problems to solve here and we must not forget that.

    This story makes me tear up every time I read something new.... but Andy, please continue to follow this (I know you will).

    Posted by: gabriel | Feb 15, 2008 11:18:36 AM

  22. An important issue here is gun control. I am amazed that the media and people in general are so surprised when something like this happens when anyone can get a gun seems we see shooting after shooting in and out of schools every month on the news. Tougher Gun Laws need to happen or this will continue always.

    Posted by: davey | Feb 15, 2008 11:34:31 AM

  23. Wow! I'm amazed that you guys think it is okay for a FOURTEEN YEAR OLD to be tried as an adult!!!! Yes, it was a horrible, horrible, horrible crime. And it is particularly disturbing to us not only because of King's age, but because someone killed a person who belonged to our 'tribe'. And no, I don't think McInerney should get away without any consequences. But the shooter in this case is still a child himself!

    I've worked with juveniles who were referred for psychotherapy by the juvenile justice system. Some of the kids I worked with had committed some pretty serious offenses such as sexual assault. And while these children could understand the difference between right and wrong, the gravity of their offenses was often lost on them, either because of poor parenting or because they simply had not reached a developmental level that facilitated empathy. But almost every kid I ever worked with was 'redeemable'. It was *always* the case that the family environment was toxic as hell. Once you began to work with the child and his family, things started to change. Children who didn't have empathy for others began to slowly develop it. And they were healed.

    What I fear in this scenario is that McInerney will be tried and convicted as an adult. That scenario would surely see him spending much of his life in prison for a crime committed as a child. And when he does get out of prison, he'll be a hardened criminal who has absolutely no idea whatsoever how to negotiate the world as a free man. And that will just lead to more crime once he gets out, possibly against another homosexual.

    Though the consequences of his actions were horrible, he shouldn't be tried as an adult. He should be tried in the juvenile justice system (which, trust me, is plenty tough enough) and sentenced to spend at least the rest of his childhood and even better, up to the age of 25 (the cutoff for an inmate in the California Youth Authority facilities), in CYA, the equivalent of jail for minors. While he is in CYA, he should have extremely limited contact with his family and he should receive LOADS of counseling in order to stop this cycle of violence.

    Isn't it better to rehabilitate than it is to simply punish?

    Posted by: peterparker | Feb 15, 2008 11:42:46 AM

  24. In this day and age, a 14-year old isn't a naive, innocent child. This was no accident. If we are going to allow guns in this society, then the people who use them need to be held accountable, even if they are teenagers. Unless it can be proved the shooter had no idea what he was doing, he needs to be tried as an adult.

    Posted by: Zinc Alloy | Feb 15, 2008 11:54:35 AM

  25. This is a tragedy on SO, SO, SO many levels.

    I hope justice will be served but for the life of me I can't take pleasure in knowing that a 14 year old boy was so screwed up in his thinking due to influences in his life that he committed such a hate filled crime that will end the lives of TWO children. I take no delight in knowing what lies ahead for this 14 year old child. I know some people will blow a gasket that I would feel ANY compassion for the killer but I do. My nature, my Christian faith and my Buddhist life philosophy demands it.

    When will we as a society, culture and country begin to treat the cancer instead of reacting indignantly to the symptoms while continuing to ignore the underlying causes of such atrocities? Bigotry goes unchecked and bullying in schools is considered to be just another part of growing up. But then when the bigot ends up killing someone or when the bullied child kills the person who bullied them, or the person who allowed the bully to go unchecked, people become outraged, they throw the perp in jail, they feel all is well with the world, they go back to their happy lives and ignore the fact that NOTHING that caused the tragedy has been fixed or even addressed and it is still there to claim the next victim.

    This has happened OVER AND OVER but our collective answer seems to be to put up more metal detectors in schools, to try kids as adults, to stiffen penalties to punish AFTER THE FACT and to build bigger and bigger and more and more prisons where these people can be warehoused and forgotten rather than looking at prevention before the fact and rehabilitation afterward. Honest to God, how is that REALLY working for us? Are we any safer now than we were back when there was a more thoughtful approach to the justice and penal system? I sure as hell don't think so.

    And the beat goes on. And the next hate crime/school shooting/bullied child/suicide is a matter of minutes, hours or, at the MOST, days away.

    The very definition of insanity!

    Posted by: ZEKE | Feb 15, 2008 11:55:21 AM

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