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A Los Angeles youth counselor was beaten to death Saturday night while trying to break up a fight at a youth residential center.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office has taken seven individuals—including five juveniles and two adults—into custody in connection with the death of 25-year-old David McKnight-Hillman, who was found with “blunt force trauma injuries” when deputies arrived at Wayfinder Family Services just before 10 p.m. Saturday night, according to a statement from the department.
The two adult suspects have been identified as Nyier Mason, 18, and Keith Lewis, 18. Each are now facing one count of murder in McKnight-Hillman’s death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Four juveniles—between the ages of 16 and 17 years old—are also facing one count of murder in juvenile court, authorities said.
Deputy Trina Schrader said the fifth juvenile suspect had been at large, but was taken into custody by detectives in Buena Park on Tuesday without incident, according to the statement.
Deputies were called to Wayfinder Family Services, a private nonprofit community-based organization licensed by California, at 9:51 p.m. Saturday after receiving a report of a fight at the facility.
The center provides residential therapeutic services to children and youth placed there by the Department of Children and Family Services.
McKnight-Hillman—whose responsibilities included the day-to-day care of the residents—had tried to intervene and break up the fight, but was brutally assaulted in the process. Deputies arrived to find him suffering from “what appeared to be blunt force trauma injuries” and transported him to an area hospital.
Prosecutors said he died the next day from his injuries.
According to the sheriff’s department, the motive in the attack is unknown.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department declined to release any additional details about the deadly attack to Oxygen.com.
Lewis has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Mason’s arraignment had been scheduled for Thursday but it’s not clear whether it took place.
If convicted, prosecutors said both defendants could face a possible maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
“We all grieve for David McKnight-Hillman and his family,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said. “As prosecutors, we will fulfill our constitutional duty to hold accountable the people responsible for his murder and offer the assistance of our Bureau of Victim Services to help his family obtain the support and services they need to address their loss and heal from the effects of their crime-induced trauma.”
Anyone with information about the alleged crime, is urged to contact the sheriff’s office.
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