The murder of Augustine Contreras at Venice High School yesterday was, as best as I can tell, the first shooting near the school since Francisco Herrera was shot outside in 2001. I'm particularly interested in this story because my brother attended VHS and the school is one block from my church.

A 17-year-old Venice High School student was fatally shot Monday after a fistfight between black and Latino students spilled onto the campus parking lot, police and witnesses said.

Police were unsure Monday evening if the student, identified as Augustine Contreras, had been shot in the chest or the face. LAPD officers were searching a section of Venice's Oakwood neighborhood for the assailant in the 3:10 p.m. attack, which authorities believe was tied to a gang dispute.

Two people were briefly detained and then were released, officials said.

There must have been dozens of witnesses considering the time of the shooting, so it shouldn't take long for the police to get people in custody.

A student, who did not want her name used for fear of retaliation, said she witnessed the fight, which began on campus just before 3 p.m. when the final period ended.

Three black students and one Latino student started fighting, drawing a larger crowd, the 17-year-old sophomore said.

The Latino was bleeding from his mouth. Then four more Latino students entered the fray, taunting the blacks to fight. But the blacks tried to walk away, the girl said. She said she heard one of the Latinos shout the name of a gang.

The dispute drifted into the faculty parking lot, where someone screamed, "One of them has a gun!" she said.

The girl said she did not hear the gun go off but saw Contreras, who wore a white T-shirt, lying on the ground.

Gang violence has been dropping in the Venice area for the past decade or so, and it's worrying if the problem is getting worse again despite the "gentrification" of the surrounding neighborhoods.



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