Chom and Vanareth Ross are seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the school district and the city for not sufficiently protecting their daughter, Melody Ross. Melody was shot and killed on Oct. 30, 2009, after Wilson’s homecoming football game against Long Beach Poly High.
According to police, Ross was an innocent bystander when a man opened fire, attempting to shoot two rival gang members. The 16-year-old was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet, and died before arriving at St. Mary Medical Center despite efforts to revive her.
The claims filed against the school district and the city are the first steps required before a lawsuit can be filed. The school board has rejected the claim while the city has refused it, saying it was not an adequate filing.
“We refused to consider the claim because it appeared to be directed against the school district,” City Attorney Bob Shannon said. “It talks about failing to enlist the services of the Long Beach Police Department, so that addresses the school district.”
That means that the law firm, Makarem & Associates of Los Angeles, will have to refile the claim against the city. Rejection of the claim by the school district allows the next legal step to be taken.
“All I can say is that the Melody Ross family has filed a claim against the district,” said LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou. “I don’t know how much the claim is for. I can’t comment further on a legal matter.”
Ross’s death shocked the community, and sparked an outpouring of concern and donations. The police department launched an all-out manhunt, and arrested two 16-year-olds with gang connections just five days after the shooting. A number of fundraisers took place, and the Long Beach Unified School District Foundation helped coordinate the funeral and memorial.
A parents’ meeting was conducted the week after the shooting, and tighter security was instituted at football games throughout the city. The shooting actually took place outside the Wilson High stadium, on the sidewalk next to Ximeno Avenue.
The claim filed with the city alleges that the city and the school district should have known that the game would attract dangerous elements and that more security was needed.
According to Wilson Co-Principal Sandy Blazer at the parents’ meeting, campus security was augmented in anticipation of the sold-out game against Poly, which attracted about 5,000 spectators. There were four armed school safety officers in uniform stationed along the perimeter of the campus, 19 campus security officers, 10 administrators and 15 teachers assigned to the game, school officials said.
But another shooting in the neighborhood, this one involving a police officer, did cause some patrol cars to respond away for the school. The claim speaks several times of “allowing the Long Beach Police Department to abandon its assignment at the game.”
Another issue mentioned several times in the claim is the lighting on the street next to the football stadium.
No specific amount is addressed in the original claim, with the amount sought cited only as exceeding the minimum for jurisdiction by the Superior Court. The attorney of record, Ronald Makarem, did not return calls for comment.