Los Angeles police on Thursday arrested two teenage boys in connection with the death of a 15-year-old girl who overdosed in a restroom at her high school after buying pills possibly laced withon campus, authorities said. Authorities are looking to find the distributors who provided the boys with the pills, and the city's mayor declared: "This was not an overdose. This was murder."
Police served a search warrant around 8:30 a.m. as part of an investigation into the overdose death of a girl a day earlier at Bernstein High School in Hollywood, police Chief Michel Moore said.
A 15-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother was taken into custody on suspicion of manslaughter, Moore said. Investigators believe he sold pills touted as Percocet to two 15-year-old friends around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday who later crushed and snorted the narcotics in the restroom at their school.
The Los Angeles County Coroner identified the student who died as Melanie Ramos, 15. Her unidentified friend who also overdosed remained hospitalized and was expected to recover.
Ramos' aunt said the high school sophomore had dreams of joining the Army, CBS Los Angeles reports.
"Stop poisoning our kids," Ramos's aunt said. "This has to stop. This can happen to anybody. Unfortunately, this happened to our family."
"Think of Melanie before you take anything," said another of her aunts. "Don't take anything you're not supposed to take."
Moore said police also arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of selling fentanyl-laced pills to two other high school students who suffered overdoses after buying the drugs at nearby Lexington Park. He could face narcotics-related charges, the chief said.
Police will work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to find the distributors who provided the 15- and 16-year-old boys with the pills, Moore said.
"There is a drug organization behind this," he said.
The teen suspects knew each other, and both attend Apex Academy, an independent charter school that shares a campus with Bernstein.
Dealers lacing common painkillers with fentanyl is an increasingly common practice, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference.
"These are people who have been poisoned," Garcetti said. "One pill can kill."
Garcetti took to Twitter following the press conference, where he offered a solemn warning.
"Hear this: If you peddle death to our kids, we will come for you," the tweet said, followed by a second tweet that read: "This was not an overdose. This was murder. And my heart breaks with the families and children affected by this growing evil. We will not rest until justice is served."
Officers were called to Bernstein High Tuesday night after a man said his 15-year-old stepdaughter had overdosed on campus, police said.
The girl and her friend had not come home from school in the afternoon and the man began driving around town looking for the pair. He found his stepdaughter around 8 p.m. in a school courtyard, said police Lt. John Radke.
She had suffered an overdose but managed to tell her stepfather that her friend was in a girls' restroom on campus, Radke said Wednesday.
The man and a school employee found the other girl unresponsive in the restroom at the school where students and parents had gathered for evening athletic events. The man administered aid until paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead, police said. His stepdaughter was hospitalized.
Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to separate calls reporting possible overdoses of two teens in the area of Lexington Park, a few blocks from Bernstein High and a cluster of other schools, according to police.
"It is believed that the overdose victims are students of Bernstein and local high schools," a police statement said.
One of the victims was a 17-year-old student at nearby Hollywood High School, said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Including the latest victims, there have been a total of six cases of drug-related incidents including overdoses stemming from illicit narcotics purchased in recent at Lexington Park in a residential area of East Hollywood near the U.S. 101 freeway, Carvalho said.
"It is a park well known for allowing individuals to sell drugs to provide drugs to some of our students," the superintendent told reporters Wednesday.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the area, ordered the park closed Wednesday, Carvalho said.
Grief and crisis counselors were on hand at Bernstein High, LA Unified said in a statement.
Law enforcement officials nationwide have for months warned about the dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It's frequently mixed into illicit pills made to look like prescription painkillers or other medicines.
The arrests come days after a Minnesota man wasonline that led to 11 fatal overdoses.
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