Three students believed to have overdosed on apparently fentanyl-laced pills obtained in a Hollywood Park were continuing to recover Thursday amid reports that a teenage suspect had been detained in connection with the investigation into the drug sales that also led to the death of a 15-year-old girl at Bernstein High School.
Los Angeles police declined to comment officially, but Fox11 reported that a teenager was detained Thursday morning when officers served a warrant near Eleanor and El Centro avenues, just west of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. CBS2 subsequently reported that the suspect was a 17-year-old boy, and the teen was arrested.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office identified the 15-year-old girl who died in a girls’ bathroom at Bernstein High School Tuesday night as Melanie Ramos.
According to police and Los Angeles Unified School District officials, the situation unfolded around 8 p.m. Tuesday, when a man went to Bernstein high, 1309 N. Wilton Place, in search of his stepdaughter, who had not returned from school.
He found his stepdaughter suffering from apparent overdose symptoms, although she was still conscious and was able to tell him that one of her friends was in a girls’ bathroom, officials said. The man and a school employee found the other girl — Ramos — unresponsive in the bathroom, where she died.
Investigators subsequently learned of two other overdoses that occurred at nearby Lexington Park on Tuesday night.
Fox11 reported that one is a 17-year-old boy from Hollywood High School. The other is a 15-year-old girl, possibly a Bernstein High School student.
LAPD investigator Lt. John Radtke told reporters the students apparently went to the park and purchased some type of pills, thinking it was the pain killer Percocet, but the pills appeared to have been laced with fentanyl.
Paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department were called to the school after the girl was found in the bathroom, but they were unable to revive her. The other 15-year-old girl was taken to a hospital in stable condition, LAPD Officer Rosario Cervantes told City News Service.
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to two other calls of overdoses in the area of Lexington Park.
“We think the two cases could be related,” Cervantes said.
The LAUSD issued a statement Wednesday saying the district was working closely with the LAPD, “and at this point and due to confidentiality issues, we have no further information to share. However, school will be open today and we will have grief counselors on-site and available to support all students and employees.
“As we work together with LAPD to uncover details of this tragic situation, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of both students. We also thank everyone for their understanding and support today and we will share more information as it becomes available,” according to the district.
Anyone with information was asked to contact West Bureau Homicide investigators at 213-382-9470 or 877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho went to Bernstein High Wednesday morning to meet with the dead girl’s family. He lashed out at the scourge of drugs being sold to teen students at Lexington Park. He indicated that as many as six other students may have suffered from overdoses in recent weeks stemming from drugs purchased at the park.
“Lexington Park is two blocks away from this school,” Carvalho said. “Meaning Lexington Park is two blocks away from literally hundreds of teenagers.”
He decried the death of Ramos, a 15-year-old girl who “perished at this school on the coldness of a bathroom floor.”
“That should not be the case, not in this school. Not in any school in Los Angeles or across our country,” he said. “But that’s the situation we’re facing.”
“… For the individual who apparently for a number of weeks has been spreading pain, destruction and now death — rest assured, we are going to use the full weight and muscle of this school system, the full weight of the city’s law enforcement entity, the (Drug Enforcement Administration), to know who you are, who the people behind you are,” Carvalho said. “And we shall bring justice to the grieving parents at this school and all schools in our community.”
Carvalho said he has spoken to City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, and said Lexington Park has been closed.
In a statement to City News Service, O’Farrell called the overdoses a “horrific tragedy,” adding, “my heart breaks for the community of families and friends who are dealing with unimaginable grief.”
“The illicit drug trade catering to vulnerable populations, especially children, deserves our immediate national attention,” he said. “We need all government and health agencies to act now and get fentanyl off the streets and out of our communities. It is literally a matter of life and death.”