The Short, Unhappy Life of Lawrence King

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 10, 2008

A young gay man was shot twice in the head at school by a classmate who was a member of the Young Marines-reportedly for responding to anti-gay taunts with flirting.

Lawrence King, 15, was shot by Brandon McInerney, 14, on Feb. 12 at E. O. Green Junior High School, the Los Angeles Times reported in a profile on the two teens published Mar. 8.

Though no details were included in the L.A. Times article, the newspaper did report that King had been removed from his home and placed at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for youth.

King's younger brother has created a Web site to memorialize the fallen student. The site includes poetry, a slide show, and a link to the Tolerance/Anti-Violence forum.

McInerney came from a troubled family life, reported the L.A. Times, including allegations a year before his birth his father had shot his mother in the arm, as well as allegations that McInerney's father had choked his mother when McInerney was a small child.

McInerney's father claimed that his mother had abused McInerney by striking and scratching him.

McInerney's father also alleged in court documents that his mother used drugs; his mother claimed that his father abused prescription medication. Each parent took out retraining orders against the other following their separation in 2000.

McInerney's father, William, claimed to have gone to Child Protective Services five times or more out of concern for Brandon and his two half-brothers in a period of year and a half from August, 2000, to Feb., 2001, to no effect. That claim, the L.A. Times reported, could not be verified.

But the Times reported that after living alternately with parent and then the other, Brandon had moved in with his father to stay a few years ago. The Times reported that the gun used in the murder had come from McInerney's father's house.

King, the article said, had experienced months of abuse from his classmates. The paper said that King's friends recounted that anti-gay name calling had been ongoing, and said that the school's teachers were aware of what was happening.

King, the paper said, had responded to the slurs with defiance, wearing makeup to school and telling people that he thought Brandon, allegedly one of King's tormentors, was attractive. King's response caused an intensification in the bullying he endured, the Times reported.

It also caused the other kids to begin to tease McInerney about being gay.

On Feb. 12, the paper reported, King was gunned down in a school room even as other students were present.

McInerney was subsequently charged with murder. The killing is being handled as a hate crime, the Times reported. McInerney was charged as an adult.

The Times quoted a professor psychology with UC Irvine, Elizabeth Cauffman, as saying that children from violent home lives can become trapped in a "cycle of violence."

Said Cauffman, "When you witness violence as a child, you go on to solve your problems with violence."

McInerney, who was dedicated to martial arts and his schoolwork, was in the Young Marines.

Said Dana Charvet, a martial arts instructor under whom McInerney learned, said of Brandon, "With him, it was always, 'Yes, sir. No, sir.'"

Charvet, the Times reported, said that Brandon had come to him to advice about how to handle "some guys who were messing with him," although he never specified whether King was one of them.

Charvet said that he told McInerney, "'Tell your dad or talk to the principal.'"

The Times story reported that some kids at the school had heard talk of McInerney saying he was going to kill King, but it seemed too extreme to be true.

Said one student, Michael Sweeney, "Brandon told this one girl that he was going to kill Larry."

Continued Sweeney, "She didn't tell the principal. I didn't, either, after I heard about it. I thought it was a joke."

But the shooting occurred the following day, the Times article said.

Speaking of King, friends of the slain gay teenager say that King, who was an adopted child, did not engage in talk about family.

Said student Melissa Reza, "Every time somebody would say something about their family, he would get this weird look in his eye, like he was being left out."

The Times also reported that Reza said she's asked him about being placed at Casa Pacifica.

Said Reza, "He said he had fun there, but it never really felt like home."

The times quoted the head of Ventura County's agency for children and family services, Judy Webber, as saying that although employees of shelters like Casa Pacifica try to keep tabs on what's happening with the children in their care, "Sometimes things happen at school that we don't know about."

According to some of King's friends, the young man had decided to tough our the taunts on his own and not to go to school authorities and risk further maltreatment.

The article quoted 15-year-old Vanessa Ramirez as saying, "They used to bug him a lot, pick on him," but that King "didn't want to tell the teachers because they'd start picking on him more."

Another student tells the story differently; Mark Reyes, 13, said, "You'd hear, 'Faggot! Hey, faggot!'"

Continued Reyes, "That was happening in every class."

According to Reyes, "A lot of teachers knew stuff was going on," but, "I guess they just didn't want to be involved."

But the Times reported that the Hueneme School District's superintendent, Jerry Dannenberg, said that school authorities were actively involved in working with King once they found out about tension between McInerney and King.

Said Dannenberg, "They had been doing a lot of counseling and a lot of work with [King]."

Added Dannenberg, "There have been a number of different people working with the young men, but I can't go into specifics about what was going on."

Where McInerney had joined with the young Marines, King sought a place among his peers at a youth group associated with GLBT organization Ventura County Rainbow Alliance.

Jay Smith, the group's Executive Director, spoke of King, saying, "Not having a mom or dad to run to--I can't imagine what that is like."

Added Smith, "His life was tough."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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