By Sam Adams
The blood streamed downhill, forming a pool near St. Michaelâs Church, police said.
In the opening hours of the new year, a man was shot and killed outside a house closer to Harvard-Westlake than some student parking spots.
Less than a football fieldâs length from school-owned homes in which teachers live, the murder occurred after an underground, pay-at-the-door New Yearâs party in a foreclosed house.
“The neighborhood is a nice, quiet one,” said Dean Michele Bird, who lives in school housing with her husband, Coordinator of Financial Aid Geoff Bird. “We donât hear much from there but the occasional dog barking or kids playing.”
But the peaceful neighborhood was disrupted by the sound of police sirens and helicopters after three shots were fired on Jan. 1.
The shooting took place on the 3900 block of Avenida del Sol, just south of the school off Coldwater Canyon.
The scene of the crime was a vacant house that had been sold at a trusteeâs sale after foreclosure in September.
The illegal party was marketed as a “Winter Wonderland” event, with fliers passed out to neighbors. A fight between two men began at about 4 a.m., resulting in the shooting of Felix Lang, a Hamilton High School and later Valley College basketball standout, by self-proclaimed bouncer Gilbert Llewelyn McDonald, police said.
There is no indication that Harvard-Westlake students were at the party.
McDonald was taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries resulting from the altercation, where he was apprehended by police. He has since been charged with murder and has gone through preliminary hearings.
Christopher Darden, the assistant prosecutor during the O.J. Simpson murder trial more than a decade ago, is representing the defendant.
“Surprising enough, neither I nor my dogs heard the gunshot or even the party,” performing arts teacher Christoper Michael Moore said.
Moore, the faculty member who lives closest to the site of the altercation, was interviewed by police during the initial investigation.
The murder, described as an “isolated incident” by LAPD North Hollywood Homicide Detective Thomas Townsend, nonetheless reflects a rise in crime rates in the local area. Robberies have increased by 138 percent in the past year and shots fired have spiked by 700 percent in the North Hollywood precinct, according to police statistics.
Members of the schoolâs security team monitor local crime information to better protect students and faculty.
“If there is a burglary problem in the neighborhood, we discover as much information as we can so the problem doesnât affect Harvard-Westlake,” Head of Security Jim Crawford said. “We are aware of car thefts in the area, and we get suspect descriptions. We do not want any of our students to walk to their vehicle and confront a car thief, so we are diligent in monitoring the outside areas.”
The security team maintains a neighborhood presence at night, but focuses on on-campus safety, Crawford said.