School moves to tighten security after gang rape - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

School moves to tighten security after gang rape

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From left, Bill Williams, Dexter Young, and Bishop Andre Jackson bow their head in prayer at a rally at Richmond High School in Richmond, Calif., Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) From left, Bill Williams, Dexter Young, and Bishop Andre Jackson bow their head in prayer at a rally at Richmond High School in Richmond, Calif., Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) - Officials at a high school where a student was gang-raped in a courtyard are moving to tighten campus security with the long-stalled purchase of surveillance cameras, powerful lighting and new fencing.

The measures were disclosed as community leaders sought ways to calm outrage over the Oct. 24 attack at Richmond High School that police said may have involved as many as 10 suspects and 20 onlookers who failed to call police.

"Obviously, there wasn't enough security or we wouldn't have had this tragedy happen," said Bruce Harter, superintendent of the West Contra Costa School District.

Administrators have long pushed for the new measures but couldn't find the money until now, Harter said.

A seventh suspect was arrested Tuesday in the attack on the 15-year-old girl after she left a homecoming dance in the industrial enclave near the San Francisco Bay known as one of the nation's most dangerous cities.

At a rally and candlelight vigil later Tuesday, DeAnna Schlau, a victim advocate with the nonprofit Community Violence Solutions read a statement she said was prepared by the victim.

"Violence is a wrong choice. We realize people are angry about this, but let that anger cause change; change that is necessary to keep our children, our neighbors and our friends safe. We thank everyone for their love, support and ongoing prayers," Schlau said.

Hundreds attended the event, which featured songs, prayers and dancing.

Harter said the homecoming dance featured 10 chaperones: Six site supervisors and four police officers were at the school gym to make sure the dance and nearby parking lots were safe. They thought things were going so well that two supervisors were allowed to leave early, Harter added.

The girl was attacked across campus, where a group of males ranging from 15 to the mid-20s were drinking in the dimly lit courtyard. The victim was invited by a classmate to join the group after leaving the dance.

She drank a large amount of alcohol with them before the two-hour assault began, police said. Officers acting on a tip later found her semiconscious near a picnic table.

Charles Johnson, a Richmond High School security specialist, said one of the supervisors at the dance had been keeping an eye on the girl as she waited outside the gym for her father to give her a ride home.

Sammie Lee Hill, a former police officer and a community relations specialist at the school, said the victim is a caring person and easy to get along with.

"We all know she's going through a hell of an ordeal," Hill said. "That's what hurts everybody the most."

Earlier Tuesday, police arrested Elvis Josue Torrentes, 21, of Richmond for investigation of rape, rape in concert with force and other allegations that could lead to life in prison if he is convicted. He was being held on $1.2 million bail.

Prosecutors have filed charges against five other suspects, including 18-year-old Jose Carlos Montano of San Pablo late Monday. He did not enter a plea during his brief arraignment Tuesday.

Suspect Cody Ray Smith, 15, pleaded not guilty to charges, while fellow suspects Ari Abdallah Morales, 16, Marcelles James Peter, 17, and Manuel Ortega, 19, did not enter pleas during their arraignment as adults in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Attorney Ernie Castillo, who represents Morales, said Tuesday that his client likely will not enter a plea when the suspects return to court Thursday. Castillo said Morales may not do so until prior to a preliminary hearing. It could not be determined if the other suspects had retained lawyers.

Janet Gutierrez, 16, a junior at the school, said the rape has made her concerned about her own safety.

"I'm not scared to be in school," Gutierrez said. "But I'm not going to walk around outside, especially when it's dark."

Community leaders were asking for 100 volunteers to help keep the school safe.

"I pray that we can use this horrific and heinous incident as a teachable moment," said the Rev. Andre Shumake, who made the plea.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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