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School tries to tighten security after gang rape 

/ Source: The Associated Press

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.

‘Violence is a wrong choice’
At a rally and candlelight vigil later Tuesday, DeAnna Schlau 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, prayer and dancing.

Ten 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 said.

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.

Teachable moment?
Prosecutors have filed charges against five other suspects, including 18-year-old Jose Carlos Montano of San Pablo late Monday.

Cody Ray Smith, 15, pleaded not guilty to charges, while 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 Ortega, did not immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment. 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.