Family in mourning questions campus policy

January 26, 2009 6:35:59 PM PST
A Richmond boy shot and killed last week was supposed to be in class and his family wants to know why his high school didn't better enforce its closed campus policy.

The family of a Richmond teen shot to death last Friday wants answers from officials at John Fitzgerald Kennedy High School.

"The school was supposed to protect my baby. I sent him there to learn, to get an education," said Cymande Russell, Cameron Russell's stepmother.

15-year-old Cameron Russell was killed inside a vacant apartment near Kennedy High, just before noon. A 16-year-old called police to say he shot Russell accidently. That boy was later arrested.

"There was gross negligence in the handling of a firearm. A firearm shouldn't be in the hands of any teenage kid, especially when one comes up dead," said Sgt. Bisa French from the Richmond Police Department.

While police investigate, Russell's family wants to know why the freshman was allowed to leave campus.

"The school is supposed to be a closed campus," said ABC7's Laura Anthony.
"Yes, it is. He should not have been able to leave the campus if the gates were locked like they were supposed to be," said Dawn Flemings, Russell's aunt.

Assistant Superintendent Wendell Greer told ABC7 Russell did attend his first two classes Friday, but was absent after second period.

"We have about 27 acres here. I don't have a person at every doorway. So there are some things, there are lines that we tell the kids, 'Do not cross the line, do not go through this,' but if they do exit that door, we try to catch them up on the perimeter," said Wendell Greer, from the West Contra Costa School District.

The school also has an automated calling system, to notify parents if their child misses a class. Russell's family told ABC7 they never received such a call.

The Cameron Russell shooting comes just as Richmond police are trying to get a handle on all the crime created by truancy. In one recent three-day sweep, they picked up 350 kids, out on the streets, who were supposed to be in school.

"What I have is a question for the school. Still to this day, I have not received a call from the school saying my son missed class," said Cymande.

The Contra Costa District Attorney is still deciding whether to charge the 16-year-old who shot Russell with murder.