Police have arrested two teenagers in connection with the overdose death of a Bernstein High School student and the overdoses of several other students who survived, authorities announced Thursday.
The first suspect, a 15-year-old boy who attends Academic Performance Excellence Academy on the same Hollywood property as Bernstein H.S., was taken into custody Thursday morning, LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced during a news conference.
He faces several charges, including manslaughter.
Moore said the 15-year-old sold pills purported to be Percocet but were laced with fentanyl to Melanie Ramos, 15, and a friend on the school’s campus early Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s common practice today in the illicit pill market to use fentanyl to spike or enhance a drug,” explained Moore. “Typically and frequently, these result in overdoses because of the overabundance of fentanyl and the powerful nature of it.”
Investigators believe the girls crushed the pills into powder and snorted them in a restroom, and then apparently lost consciousness.
When one girl regained consciousness hours later, she walked out of the restroom and located her father who had been looking for her, Moore said.
Ramos was already dead.
“We have mixed emotions — angry, sad. We want answers,” said Gladys Manriques, a relative of Ramos. “Why was she found so late?'” asked Manriques. “To me, in a sense, the school could have done better in doing a sweep, like make sure all the kids are out of school. I’m pretty sure that’s a protocol.”
The second suspect, a 16-year-old boy who also attends Academic Performance Excellence Academy is accused of selling narcotics at nearby Lexington Park, where investigators say other students overdosed on the same pills.
Three students remained hospitalized Thursday.
“These are people who have been poisoned. These are murders,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, vowing to follow the drugs to the source. “We are not just interested in the final distributors of the pills that peddled this death. We want to go up that chain.”
“Our work does not stop because these two individuals -15 and 16 years of age – are simply transferring and soldiering this distribution,” said Moore. “There’s a drug organization behind this. We will identify who are supplying these drugs to these two individuals and I look forward to pursuing an aggressive prosecution for them because the trail of this does not end here.”
“To the parents who are affected by this tragedy, we wrap our arms of love around you and our hearts break with you,” said Garcetti. “We have no tolerance for this evil. Anybody who is involved with the distribution of this, the manufacturing of this, those who are enabling the dealers that allow this to happen, this will not end well for you.”
“Melanie’s life was cut [too] short unfortunately on September 13 2022,” reads a GoFundMe campaign set up for the Ramos family. “Please we ask you to keep an eye on who your kids hang out with and how they influence our kids.”