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Boy, 13, dies after being sucker-punched at middle school; classmates say he'd been bullied


A pair of 13-year-olds are in juvenile custody and face prosecution — and the community is enraged

Image source: KTLA-TV video screenshot

A 13-year-old boy who was sucker-punched at his California school earlier this month has died, KTLA-TV reported.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department hasn't formally identified the boy, but family and officials at Landmark Middle School said his name was Diego, the station noted.

What happened?

Cellphone video of the Sept. 16 attack that circulated on social media showed one boy hitting the victim in the face, and then another boy sucker-punched the victim on the side of his head, KTLA said. After the second punch, the victim fell and hit his head against a pillar, the station added.

The boy who hit Diego first hurried over to punch him again while he was on the ground and then ran away, KTLA reported, citing the video.

Diego was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, the station said, adding that days later his condition was updated to stable but critical. He "was pronounced clinically dead" Tuesday night "as a result of injuries sustained in the attack," sheriff's officials said in a Facebook post.

What happened to the attackers?

Two 13-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with the attack and are facing prosecution as they remain in custody at a juvenile facility, officials told the station.

Administrators said the two arrested boys are honor students, the Press-Enterprise reported.

Classmates told KTLA that Diego had been bullied, including on social media, and that violence has been a problem at the school.

Community outrage

Two days after the attack, hundreds of parents at a Moreno Valley Unified School District meeting expressed anger over how school officials are handling bullying, the station said.

Some have called for school board members to resign, the Press-Enterprise said.

One of them was Karla Palumbo — a mother who organized a school walkout Friday and spoke out Tuesday night against the school board at its regular meeting, the paper reported.

"It was expected, but it really hurts," Palumbo told the Press-Enterprise Wednesday regarding Diego's death. "It angers me, more than anything, that it takes a child to have to lose their life for them to step up."

Alicia Espinoza told the paper that the school board "failed Diego … if I was a school board member, I would step down."

What did the superintendent have to say?

Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said at a Wednesday news conference outside the school that if a student exhibits violence against another student, "when we find out something, we address it," the Press-Enterprise reported.

"We will make sure the appropriate support, the appropriate consequences, the appropriate measures are taken. … Whenever we learn something, we do something," he added, according the paper.

Kedziora also said additional security will be at the school "indefinitely," more mental health professionals will be available, and officials are working on ways to make it easier for students to anonymously report bullying, the Press-Enterprise added.

Vigil turns tense

A Wednesday community vigil for Diego turned tense after Kedziora showed up and was surrounded and shouted at.

"You can't even shed a tear?" one woman yelled at the superintendent.

Another woman hollered, "You did nothing! You turned your back on these kids!"

Sheriff's deputies protecting Kedziora soon led him away.

"I was bullied here, severely," former Landmark student Mark Cisneros told the Press-Enterprise. "Ever since I heard about this, it really just brought back bad memories. I hated it here."

"When is enough, enough?" Cisneros asked, according the paper. "I was here 10 years ago, and it's still like this?"

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