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Shots fired: the inside scoop on the shooting at Yosemite park

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Police vehicles in the cul-de-sac between Eagle Rock High School and the Yosemite pool. Photo by Eden Greene.
What happened on November 17?

These are the events of Thursday, November 17, as these reporters experienced them:

  • During the water polo practice on that day (that these reporters were attending), a group of about twenty teenagers and several younger children walk up to the amphitheater behind the Yosemite pool, on the side of the pool closest to the woods. Twenty to thirty minutes elapse.

  • An initial volley of four shots is heard, seeming to have been fired at the far end of the Yosemite park baseball courts, near the street. A brief pause of about fifteen seconds elapses.

  • A secondary volley of three shots is heard, seeming to have been fired from the amphitheater behind Yosemite pool.

  • Diego Lopez, the lifeguard on tower at the pool, blows a whistle, signaling the water polo team to evacuate the pool and take cover in the locker room. At the same time, the same twenty children from earlier run – as if from something in the amphitheater – down the left (school) side of the pool.

  • ERHS officially goes on lockdown at about 3:59 pm, and are told that "this is not a drill," in an intercom message from Principal Steinorth.

  • 911 is called around 4:00 pm.

  • Helicopters are heard first, overhead, from inside the locker room.

  • Police sirens are heard later. No ambulances arrive to the scene.

  • Based on the Remind messages of school staff, they are notified of the incident at 4:09 pm.

  • The school is released from the lockdown at 4:32 pm, and those at the pool are released within fifteen minutes of the school's release.

  • Night falls by the time all students have left the pool. The police walk the Yosemite baseball field, searching for bullet casings.

This was not a school shooting

Most importantly, the events of Thursday, November 17, were not a "school shooting." From our proximity to the shots, we heard one initial volley of shots in the vicinity of the rec center on Yosemite, and a secondary volley in the woods, in the amphitheater area behind the Yosemite pool. The shots were contained to the side of the block with the Yosemite pool, baseball fields, and rec center, across the cul-de-sac from Eagle Rock High School. The shooting occurred after school hours, and no shots were fired on campus.

The cul-de-sac post-lockdown. Photo by Eden Greene.

Police Statements

"Study hard, be safe, be aware of your surroundings," the on-site LAPD officer we interviewed begins. Due to the severity and sensitivity of the event, the officer was unwilling to provide any official recorded statements. He was, however, able to provide subsequent information: The shooting was a result of gang activity in the neighborhood, and largely ensued on the baseball field of the Yosemite Recreation Center. (He felt inclined to add that "there are a lot of gang families in the area.") Besides that account, three verified statements have been established: One, multiple verified sources, including the LAPD officer, confirm that nobody was injured by the fired shots; two, it is an ongoing investigation; and three, due to November 17th's events, there is increased police patrol for the following day (Friday, November 18).

As we culminated the interview, the officer reminded students to be careful when alone and to always aim to walk with a friend. He added that if you have a cellphone, keep it charged and ready to call 911. The officer reminds us that in events like these, the best way to react is to trust your instincts. "Just react," he says. "There is no one way to react."

Police officers searching the baseball field for bullet casings after the shooting. Photo by Eden Greene.

Lifeguard Statements

The Yosemite Swimming Pool lifeguards on duty were quick to react and protect the members of Eagle Rock's Girls Water Polo Team, and other students in the immediate area. Lifeguard Roberto Morales says that events like these, as terrible as they are, are part of lifeguard training: "We even had this type of topic in [lifeguard] academy." Morales adds how safety, notably prioritizing personal safety, is critical, "I’m not able to help anybody if I am not safe," he says.

Lifeguard Roberto Morales, in the Yosemite pool office. Photo by Eden Greene.

Morales also brought to light the general environment of modern America’s patterns of violence: "I feel really strongly about this. I just feel like how our country is operating is making stuff like this happen. We have no control over who has guns, we don’t have a limit on how much we can do with those types of things, it’s obviously getting into kids' hands. We obviously have a very big problem," he says.

Lifeguard Diego Lopez, on the Yosemite pool deck. Photo by Eden Greene.

"My job is to navigate what everybody does, because a lot of times what people will do in this situation is panic," says Diego Lopez, the lifeguard on tower during the shooting. Lopez lives in Eagle Rock and attended ERHS, and has seen events of this caliber at other pools, including at one pool that was under criminal investigation because children there were in possession of knives that belonged to a local murderer. During a shooting, his role is to get the swimmers out of the water and into the locker rooms, and then to lock the facility down. Afterwards, he does "damage control, [making] sure that your psyches aren’t too messed up," and makes sure that students get to their parents.

On a more positive note, Lopez says that kids are increasingly resilient to events like this, and that a decade ago, this would have been much more impactful. The nonchalant response to the shooting from one girl – whom he walked out of the pool area after the students were released from lockdown – was "terrifying to hear."

Student Statements

"All of a sudden, we heard these shots," says Alexa Ramaya, another student on the water polo team, who was outside of the pool's gate during the shooting. She and two friends were able to take cover inside the pool's main office immediately afterwards, and sheltered in place with the rest of the team.

Though he wasn't in the water, Freddy, a student on the pool deck who plays for the Boys Water Polo Team, feels that in these scenarios, "you have to make sure that you’re not in the way," citing the lifeguards' role during the shooting. "You know, seeing everybody just running around, going everywhere, [...] maybe others could get hurt," he continues. When asked if the incident was stressful, Freddy immediately agreed. "There's only so much that the staff can do to prevent [a shooting]," he adds. "If it happens, it’s what happens. It’s what happens after that -- what measures they take to prevent it in the future -- that help keep everyone safe."

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