California prosecutors upgraded charges against two teens suspected of punching a fellow classmate at a Moreno Valley middle school this week.
The teens, both 13, have each been charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter, a Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson confirmed with Oxygen.com. They haven’t been identified due to their age.
Police were dispatched to Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, California on Sept. 16, following reports a student, only identified as Diego, also 13, had “suffered significant injuries” in a schoolyard fight. Police arrested the two boys shortly after. The two boys were initially charged with assault.
The incident, which was captured by a cell phone camera and shared online, showed Diego being cornered by one of the boys. Seconds later, Diego was sucker punched by the student. While regaining his balance, the 13-year-old was clocked in the head from the side by the second student, forcing Diego to crack his head on a concrete pillar.
But the scuffle, which lasted a total of roughly five seconds, was allegedly enough to kill the young student, who succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced clinically dead on Sept. 25.
“Rigorous medical intervention and treatment efforts at an area hospital were unsuccessful,” said a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department press release. “Preparations by Diego’s family are underway for organ donation to transform this tragedy into the gift of life for other children."
Diego had reportedly been bullied in the past, according to KTLA.
“Many parents are concerned about bullying and threatening behaviors impacting their children,” said superintendent Dr. Martinrex Kedziora in a prepared statement.
“Please encourage your child if they see something to say something, and be an upstander against bullying,” he added. “We need to work together to ensure our schools remain a safe place for education each day.”
But some students and parents say bullying at the middle school has been an ongoing issue. Authorities reportedly responded to six reports of assault at the school since August 2018, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Moreno Valley youth football team, some of whose players went to school with Diego, will dedicate the rest of their season to the teenager, according to the Press-Enterprise.
“They were very sad, they were shocked,” Inland Empire Hornets president Jesse Mendoza told Oxygen.com.
“They were speechless about it,” the 34-year-old added. “It’s unfortunate and we’re praying for the family.”
The team will wear anti-bullying decals to commemorate Diego, the Press-Enterprise reported.
One of the two teens accused of killing Diego had their first juvenile court hearing on Wednesday, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. He denied the charges and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Nov. 1.
The other youth is due in court on Oct. 15.
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