Oct. 27, 2009— -- An official with the school district where a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang raped outside the homecoming dance said they were praying for her recovery but also defended school security, saying that when the students leave the dance, "we don't take them home."
Police in Richmond, Calif., believe that as many as 20 people may have either watched or participated in a vicious rape of the Richmond High School teenager that lasted for more than two hours in a dimly lit corner of the sprawling campus.
Rather than call for help, some of the students took pictures, police told ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco. KGO reported today that police have arrested two suspected rapists but believe that between four and seven people could have participated while as many as a dozen stood and watched.
West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesman Marin Trujillo told ABCNews.com that there were four police officers, five chaperones and a host of teachers to supervise the dance, and that when the event was over a sweep was made of the campus to make sure everyone had gone home.
The corner on the outskirts of school grounds where the girl was attacked, he said, was not part of the search.
"I bet this is a learning incident," Trujillo said, referring to the way they searched the campus.
Nevetheless, the school spokesman said it's up to parents to make sure their children get safely home from these types of dances.
"Once the child leaves the dance, we don't take them home," Trujillo said.
The spokesman later told KGO, "The dance itself was a success in terms of safety. Nothing happened at the event. We're currently exploring our protocols to make sure that we can expand them, and make sure that this isolated incident doesn't get repeated again."
Police had a different view.
"These suspects are monsters. And, I don't understand how this many people capable of such atrocious behavior could be in one place at one time," Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan told KGO.
A 15-year-old boy was arrested Monday after he was pulled out of class for questioning, and police also charged 19-year-old Manuel Ortega, a former Richmond High School student, with rape and robbery.
A third student, KGO reported, was also taken out of school for questioning but released.
No One at Gang Rape Reported It to Police
Dara Cashman, who heads Contra County's sex assault unit, told ABC News that she will begin reviewing the evidence Wednesday to determine whether criminal charges would be filed. She noted, however, the investigation is continuing.
Cashman indicated that witnesses who did not come to the girl's aid or call police were unlikely to be charged with a crime unless they aided the assault.
According to news reports, the girl left the high school's homecoming dance alone around 9:30 p.m. Saturday to get a ride home with her dad.
Instead, she met up with a group of people who were drinking on the edge of campus.
"The series of events that occurred over the next 2½ hours got more severe and more vicious to where she was ultimately gang raped and beaten, and her injuries were so severe that she had to be sent to the hospital in a helicopter," Gagan told KGO.
Trujillo described the mood at Richmond High School is "somber." Counselors and members of the school's crisis team have remained at the school as students -- some who are still not sure who the victim is -- wonder if every absent girl was the one who was attacked.
Trujillo said that parents and students are "understandably scared."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and with the child," he said.
Trujillo said the school district was not notified officially about the incident until the next morning, though some officials had heard about it on the news.
Trijullo said that school officials had recently approved a "very costly" security system, but that it had not yet been installed. Security cameras already installed in the school are not believed to be functional, he said, but there were no cameras pointed at the spot where the rape happened.
KGO reported that police were called only after someone who was not at the scene heard people talking about the attack, which was still going on.
Police officers found the girl semi-conscious, curled up near a lunch table.
A Richmond High School student told KGO that the school was not safe at night.
One student, 16-year-old Jennie Steinberg, told the Associated Press that her mother has let her transfer from the school Tuesday.
"It's not safe there at all," she said. "I'm not going back."
Trujillo said 1,688 students attend Richmond High School, which has a banner outside naming it "most improved."
"This is the first time anything like this has ever happened," he said. "It's an isolated incident, a horrible incident."