Gang Rape Victim Is Church-Going Honor Student

Friend calls victim of brutal assault a devout Christian honor student.

October 27, 2009, 10:37 AM

Oct. 29, 2009— -- The victim of last weekend's brutal gang rape at her homecoming dance was a devout Christian who attended church three times a week and whose friends say had been looking forward to the homecoming dance for weeks.

Kami Baker, one of the victim's close friends, said the girl came to the dance Saturday evening clad in a sparkling purple gown, diamond necklace and matching silver shoes.

"When we walked in the dance together she said, 'I can't wait to get my dance on!'" Baker,16, told

But what began as a night the teen girls were looking forward to at Richmond High School outside San Francisco, soon became a nightmare, when the 15-year-old became victim to a horrific two-and-a-half hour gang rape in a dark corner of the school grounds.

The area the rape occurred was described by Baker as a "secluded area" that is known for being a place where couples congregate to get "privacy."

"She was perfectly sober at the dance," said Baker, who saw the victim just 15 minutes before she left the dance. "She was bubbly, and kept saying how happy she was to be at the dance."

Baker said that the victim had many close friends who weren't able to attend the dance because of the $10 admission fee. She described her friend as an outgoing student who was enrolled in an honors English class.

She had a long distance boyfriend, according to Baker, and although she had always wanted to join the school's photography club, her parents didn't like her to stay after school and her church commitment took up much of her time.

Four teens charged in the assault appeared in court today, but only the youngest of the suspects, a 15-year-old student at the school, entered a plea. He pleaded not guilty.

Students Complained About Security at Homecoming Dance

Baker is one of several community members who claim that security and school officials saw a group of men and teens outside the homecoming dance and did nothing about it.

Students and teachers spoke out at a school meeting Wednesday evening. Some lashed out at the media for spotlighting the rape, but others said they often feel unsafe on campus and that security officials did little to prevent the brutal attack.

"It did not surprise me that something horrific happened there. Something horrific has happened here before," Jessica Price, a teacher at Richmond High School, said at a school board meeting Wednesday evening according to ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco. "We know that's a huge area where we've had gang violence and brutality in the past."

Baker,a junior at Richmond High, lambasted school officials for doing little to break up a large group of men lingering near the gym where the dance was being held.

"I looked outside of the gym and I saw 12 to 15 guys, sitting there, with no [school] IDs," Baker angrily told a school meeting, according to CNN. "The officers, not only did they not check the IDs of those students or men sitting outside of our campus, but the security officers who are employed here did no checking either."

Baker, who has not spoken to the victim since the attack, says the girl's family is devastated and scared.

Students at Richmond met today during second period, said Baker, to discuss their feelings about the attack.

"A lot of people are actually scared about what's going to happen to her," said Baker. "There is a lot of empathy and a lot of people who are scared that it went on for so long and that it could have been them."

The 15-year-old victim was gang raped by a group of about 10 men in a dimly lit area of the high school's campus while the homecoming dance was taking place.

Five Arrested "Played Significant Role" in Gang Rape

West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesman Marin Trujillo told that he has been getting hate mail since he made remarks earlier in the week suggesting that the event could still be deemed a "success" because the incident did not occur at the dance.

"We had four police officers, three administrators and a host of teachers who were at the event to support the safety of the students," said Trujillo, growing defensive.

"Our assumption was that parents should arrange for a safe ride to the school and back from the event," said Trujillo. "Clearly we have to do something different."

Police believe that as many as 20 other people watched the attack, some even snapping photos and videos with their cell phones, rather than calling for help.

"The participants and the observers of the rape have a callous and disengaged attitude about what they were doing to this victim," Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan told

"The evidence that nobody intervened to help and nobody called authorities to alert us to her vulnerability is evidence that these people really had no regard for her as a human and they were only treating her as an object," said Gagan.

Gagan said that while he has heard rumors of photographs and videos of the attack being in possession of some of those involved in the incident, he has not yet seen them.

It's not known if any of the men seen outside the dance are the same ones who participated in the rape elsewhere on the school's grounds, but two of those in custody were no longer students at the school.

Five people have been arrested and so far. Four of the five suspects in police custody were charged by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office and if convicted, could spend the rest of their lives in prison. They are expected in court today.

"These are people who played a significant role in the incident," Gagan said.

"Detectives are definitely focusing on several other individuals who will be arrested in the coming days," said Gagan.

A $20,000 reward is being offered by the Richmond Police Department to anyone who can provide information leading to more arrests in the case.

Manuel Ortega, a 19-year-old former Richmond High School student, is charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, rape in concert [gang rape] and rape with violence, according to Gagan. The DA's office is likely to ask for a life sentence of Ortega, whose bail has been set at $1.2 million.

Three other suspects charged in connection to the attack are juveniles, ages 15, 16 and 17, but are to be charged as adults, and the DA's office will seek life sentences for the trio, Gagan said.

The three juveniles are being held without bail on charges of rape in concert and penetration with a foreign object in concert. In addition, the 16-year-old will be charged with robbery.

A fifth suspect, 21-year-old Salvador Rodriguez, arrested Tuesday night, has not yet been charged, although the district attorney's office continues to investigate his role in the attack.

Gagan said that the five individuals who have been arrested are those police believe "played the most active role" and "who committed the most heinous crimes."

The girl was released from the hospital Wednesday night, officials said.

Witnesses to Gang Rape May Be Charged

Dara Cashman, the head of the sex crimes unit at the DA's office, told Bay area newspaper the Contra Costa Times that those who witnessed the alleged rape and did not report it could face aiding and abetting charges if it can be proven that their actions facilitated or goaded the perpetrators.

Earlier Cashman had indicated to ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco it was unlikely the witnesses could be prosecuted for a crime. Public outrage, however, has risen over the witnesses' behavior.

"Maybe this crime wouldn't have been so brutal, or so prolonged if not for the audience," Eugene O'Donnell, a law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former district attorney, told "These people were not at the aquarium looking at this through glass. They were actually standing there and creating the environment that allowed this to take place."

Given the number and nature of the way witnesses watched the rape take place, experts said, prosecutors may have a wider window than normal to charge onlookers as accessories to the crime.

"If you were on the scene and encouraging — or urging the suspect – you can be held responsible... Recording a crime is different from just watching it. Recording it can be a form of urging if the suspect feels like he's expected to perform," said O'Donnell.

ABC NEWS' Russell Goldman contributed to this report.

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