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Boy, 15, arrested in connection with overdose death at Hollywood high school

The teen, a student at Apex Academy, was taken into custody on suspicion of manslaughter Thursday morning. Police said he was found with pills suspected to be laced with fentanyl.
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A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with the overdose death of a 15-year-old girl at a Los Angeles high school earlier this week, police said.

The boy was taken into custody on suspicion of manslaughter Thursday morning, two days after two 15-year-old girls had apparent overdoses at Helen Bernstein High School in the 1300 block of North Wilton Place in Hollywood Tuesday evening.

A student found in the bathroom died. The coroner’s office identified her as Melanie Ramos, NBC Los Angeles reported. The other girl survived and remains hospitalized.

Police said the girls purchased what they believed to be Percocet. Authorities suspect it was laced with fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin.

The 15-year-old suspect is a student at Apex Academy, a public charter school that is independent from the Los Angeles Unified School District and shares a campus with Bernstein, police said.

He had additional pills believed to be the same narcotic when he was taken into custody at his grandmother's home, LAPD Chief Michael Moore said in a news conference Thursday. Authorities suspect those pills are laced with fentanyl, too.

The teen had minor contacts with police in the past regarding curfew and tobacco possession but “no other criminal contact,” according to the chief.

During the news conference, Moore shared a breakdown of the school overdose tragedy.

He said the girls are believed to have purchased the pill on the school’s campus, went to the bathroom to crush the pill and snort it. Both teens appeared to pass out.

When the teen who survived awoke, she found her friend unresponsive. She walked outside the school and found her stepfather who was looking for her, alerted him about her friend, and he tried to administer aid to her.

When Los Angeles fire officials arrived to the scene, they pronounced the friend dead. 

A wider investigation into the source of the pills is ongoing.

After responding to the girls' overdoses, fire officials reported they went to two additional calls of overdoses in the area of Lexington Park, about a half-mile south of the school, also believed to involve high school students.

Moore announced Thursday that a second teen was taken into custody in connection with the park drug sale: a 16-year-old student who also attended Apex Academy and will be charged with sale of narcotics. He was described as a close associate of the 15-year-old suspect.

Their names were not released due to their ages.

Police have spoken to one of the overdose victims from the park drug sale, but are asking for the other victim to come forward.

"Our work does not stop because these two individuals — 15 and 16 years of age — are simply transferring and soldiering, if you will, this distribution," Moore said. "There a drug organization behind this."

He said an investigation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force will work to identify who is supplying the drugs to the two teens. Moore vowed to pursue an "aggressive prosecution."

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho spoke at the news conference, saying he visited Ramos' family Wednesday morning before noting the overdose death causes “irreparable” harm to the community. 

“These are not overdoses," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the news conference. "These are people who have been poisoned. These are murders."