The young student whose brutal beating at his Southern California middle school more than a week ago led outraged parents to pull their children out of class in protest has died from his injuries, authorities announced Wednesday.
Identified only as Diego, the 13-year-old was pronounced dead at hospital late Tuesday, eight days after the Sept. 16 attack at Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, Riverside County Sheriff’s officials said in a statement posted to its Facebook page just before 1 p.m.
“The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is saddened to share the 13-year-old victim from Landmark Middle School was pronounced clinically dead last night as a result of injuries sustained in the attack on Monday, September 16, 2019,” the department’s post read.
“Rigorous medical intervention and treatment efforts at an area hospital were unsuccessful,” the statement continued. “Preparations by Diego’s family are underway for organ donation to transform this tragedy into the gift of life for other children.”
Diego was attacked about 1 p.m., Sept. 16 by two students outside the front entrance to the campus in Moreno Valley, a city of 207,000 about 10 miles east of Riverside.
In the days after the attack, investigators were following allegations that Diego had been a target of bullies before the beating. His alleged assailants were honor students at the school, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
A fellow student’s cellphone captured the attack on a stock-still Diego as he stood outside Landmark’s doors when first one student, then a second, sucker-punched the teen, driving his head into a concrete pillar. The boy never regained consciousness.
On Wednesday, Moreno Valley Unified School District officials expressed sadness at Diego’s death and said grief counselors and other support staff will be dispatched to Landmark to help “cope with the grief that will spread throughout the community.”
“As we mourn together, we also want to come together to find solutions and to take the necessary steps so that tragic incidents like this do not happen again,” the district’s statement read.
Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Diego’s alleged attackers later that evening on suspicion of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and booked the two into Riverside County juvenile custody, where they remained Wednesday.
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The students’ criminal charges will likely change with Wednesday’s news, but because the suspects are juveniles, authorities declined to release additional information.
Sheriff’s officials on Wednesday stressed in their statement that “violence in the communities served by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department will not be tolerated, especially involving our youth.”
But violence had visited the Landmark campus in March. Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray to break up a fight that had locked down the school. The spray sickened three students who were taken to an area hospital, according to news reports at the time.
Following the September attack, Diego’s name became a rallying cry for angry parents who took to social media and to a district meeting later that week to voice their frustration at Landmark and Moreno Valley Unified School District officials’ perceived inaction before and after Diego’s attack.
By Friday, Landmark students and their parents protested side by side in what was dubbed a “Ditch Day for Diego” as fed-up parents pulled their children from classes.
Ahead of last week’s walkout, Moreno Valley district officials attempted to assuage parents’ fears of out-of-control bullying even as they tried to persuade them to keep their kids in school.
“Please know that we need to work together to ensure our schools remain a safe place for education each day,” Moreno Valley Unified Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said in a message to parents last week. “This cannot be accomplished if students are not in school.”
“I urge you to encourage your student to come to school tomorrow and every day,” Kedziora’s statement continued, encouraging parents to tell their sons and daughters “to be an upstander against bullying.”
A second meeting with Landmark parents scheduled for Thursday was canceled Wednesday. A Thursday evening remembrance ceremony for Diego will be held instead.