Hours before a West Long Beach grandfather died in a drive-by shooting in October, one of the men accused of murdering him showed up at Cabrillo High School with his family to confront staff about bullying at the campus, according to newly revealed court documents.
The accused killer was there with a handful of relatives and his mother, who accused administrators of not protecting her other son—a sophomore—from students giving him trouble.
Her tearful complaints were so heated that campus police took notice. Later that day, one officer assigned to Cabrillo even rushed to the scene of the shooting because she was reportedly worried that tensions among students had spilled over into the deadly violence.
Police revealed these and other details in a meticulously written search warrant filed at the Downtown Long Beach courthouse last month.
The warrant doesn’t conclude whether the complaints about bullying were a driving factor in the death of 69-year-old Jose Raul Corrales, who lives blocks away from Cabrillo and has grandchildren who attend the school.
But it reveals tensions had been “extremely high” at Cabrillo with fights and altercations happening all day before Corrales was killed.
Those details also align with an anonymous letter that was sent to school administrators and the Long Beach Post in the days after Corrales’ death.
The letter, which claims to be from a campus security officer at Cabrillo, accuses school administrators downplaying gang tensions and mishandling predatory students on campus. The problem had been sparking clashes since mid-September, it alleged.
“Was the school administration part of the problem or could (they have) prevented the shooting which resulted in a person’s death?” the writer asks.
The Post hasn’t been able to confirm who authored the letter. Officials with the school district declined to respond to any of its allegations, but the Post is printing some details from it because it is corroborated substantially by detectives’ version of events.
The letter claims that the day Corrales died, fights had escalated into a “racial school riot” that required several officers to gain control of the situation.
Police confirmed they responded to a fight at Cabrillo that day but declined to say what started the fight. School officials denied it was gang-related.
After the “riot,” a student’s family responded to the school “and said they would handle the issue their way,” according to the letter.
The search warrant also describes the family arriving at school that day around noon.
Among them was 23-year-old Terrel Warren, according to the warrant. Warren and another man, 20-year-old Rhyan Burrell, were arrested last month on suspicion of murdering Corrales.
Security camera footage from Cabrillo shows Warren was at Cabrillo with his mother and four or five others. The mother got into an emotional discussion with school staff, the warrant says.
She was “extremely upset and seemed almost hysterical at times,” detectives wrote.
A few minutes after 1 p.m., the footage shows Warren and three others leave the school in a Nissan Altima with distinct star-shaped rims.
Just after 3 p.m., the same car parked at the intersection near Corrales’ home, according to the warrant. Moments later, security camera footage taken from a home on the corner shows someone pointing a gun out the window and opening fire, according to the warrant.
The shots sent Corrales’ grandchildren scrambling. A few minutes earlier, one of the men involved in the drive-by had asked the grandkids where they were from—a common gang challenge—but the grandkids responded that they don’t gangbang, according to the warrant.
At least one of the bullets hit Corrales, who was outside watering his lawn like he did every day, according to his family.
At 3:04 p.m., “the video footage depicts a water hose spraying uncontrollably in the air near the location where the decedent, victim Corrales, was located on the ground after the shooting had ended,” the warrant says.
Police said they don’t believe Corrales was the intended target. It’s unclear if the gunman tried to hit the grandchildren. The video footage appears to show the gunman pointing his firearm at a Nissan Versa driving by just as he starts shooting, according to the warrant.
The Versa’s windows were blown out by gunfire, according to the warrant. Both men inside the car were local gang members, and one of them ended up in the hospital from the gunfire, but he wouldn’t cooperate with police, according to the warrant.
Chris Eftychiou, a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District, declined to answer detailed questions about the anonymous letter and the search warrant, citing student confidentiality laws.
“We work closely with law enforcement every day to keep all of our students safe,” Eftychiou said. “Safety will continue to be the top priority for Cabrillo and all of our schools.”
Corrales’ family—especially his wife—is still reeling from his death, according to their daughter Victoria Rodriguez.
Corrales was the one who took care of his wife, driving her to daily dialysis treatments. The killing stole him away along with her sense of safety, according to Rodriguez.
“Right now I take her to my house to sleep,” she said. “She gets scared by herself.”
Burrell and Warren haven’t yet entered a plea to the charges pending against them, which could qualify them for the death penalty if prosecutors choose to seek it.
At their latest court-date Monday, family members watched the proceedings from the audience but later declined to talk about the case.
Staff writer Valerie Osier contributed to this report.
Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.
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