El Cerrito High School student Juan Ramos was fatally stabbed and three others received knife wounds when a Berkeley party—mobbed because of an Internet posting—turned deadly Friday night.
The 18-year-old student, a popular figure on the El Cerrito campus, according to El Cerrito High School Principal Vince Rhea, was fatally stabbed in a confrontation outside a home at 772 Contra Costa Ave. just before 11:30 p.m.
According to numerous published reports the homeowner is Keith Oppelt.
The narrow street, bordered by million dollar homes, is generally quiet, according to neighbors. Once in a while you’ll hear doors slamming as someone leaves a party, “but it’s always adults,” said a nearby neighbor who did not want to be identified.
Another neighbor, Alan Swain, went out Friday night to pick up his daughter from a party at Albany High and was surprised to see the street mobbed with cars. He said he saw “so many kids cruising back and forth.”
After picking up his daughter, he drove down the street to see where the party was. “There were a large number of kids on the sidewalk,” he said.
Swain was unable to get back to his house because of the number of young people and cars in the street. That’s when he saw the young man lying in the street.
“He was rolling around,” he said. The other young people were trying to get a car door open and yelling, “Where are the keys?”
Swain assumed the youngster was drunk or stoned and sat in his car for about 10 minutes until they got the doors open and got the young man into the car. At that point Swain noticed bloodstains on the sweatshirt of one of the young people helping the victim and realized that he was hurt. He was then able to get to his house and dial 911; police arrived shortly after.
Partygoers took three of the injured, including the young man who eventually died, to the Albany Police Department, almost two miles from the home. From there, Albany and Berkeley paramedics rushed the three to Highland Hospital, according to Berkeley Police Lt. Daniel Lee. Ramos was pronounced dead at the hospital.
A fourth victim took himself to Children’s Hospital in Oakland early Saturday morning, Lee said, adding that all of the three wounded are expected to recover.
The party, where parents were apparently absent, was attended by students from El Cerrito and Albany high schools, as well as crashers who learned of the event on a popular Internet site.
Lee said reports indicate that between 100 and 150 youths attended the party.
No arrests have been made in connection with the crime, and Lee said he didn’t know if investigators had identified a suspect.
“Right now, the information is really sketchy,” said El Cerrito High School Principal Rhea. “We know that two seniors were involved, and one, an 18-year-old, was fatally wounded.”
One of the two other students who were stabbed is a senior at Albany High School, according to published reports.
Word of the stabbings stunned students at the El Cerrito campus Monday.
“We are having a lot of grief and support counseling on campus today,” Rhea said.
The principal has appealed for students who know anything about Friday night’s events to contact authorities.
“We have asked them to come forward, and I know that they will in a case of this magnitude. And I am hearing that students are beginning to come forward,” Rhea said. “I believe that we’ll get a pretty clear picture of what happened.
Albany High School Principal Ron Rosenbaum did not return calls.
Rhea said that preliminary indications are that the party was originally intended to be a small gathering, but word of the event was posted on an online site—Myspace.com.
Lee said he had seen something similar in one of the reports on the crime.
“It could’ve happened that way,” Rhea said. “We’re still trying to piece it together.”
Mark Coplan, public information officer for the Berkeley Unified School District said he had also heard that the party had been posted on Myspace.com. The site is popular among young people, especially in the15-to-18-year-old age range, he said.
In addition to member biographies and weblogs, the site lists events, and users can search for parties and other happening by city, ZIP code and date.
“Once it’s announced, you can’t tell who will show up. It’s not the
people who are invited who usually cause the problems, it’s the crashers,” Coplan said.
Berkeley police urge anyone with information on the case to call 981-5900.