LOS ANGELES - A 15-year-old student at Bernstein High School in Hollywood is dead and another teen was hospitalized after buying and ingesting pills they thought were Percocet, but were unknowingly laced with fentanyl.
The deceased student was identified by authorities as Melanie Ramos.
The parents of the teen girls became concerned after their daughters did not return home from school and reported them missing Tuesday evening. The stepfather of one of the girls began driving around in search of his stepdaughter and kept circling back to her school. Around 8 p.m., he found her collapsed in the courtyard of the school campus located near the intersection of North Wilton Place and Fountain Avenue.
In a fragile state, she managed to tell her stepfather she took half a pill she bought at Lexington Park.
"She was very ill. She had been the victim of an overdose. She was able to communicate with him and was able to let him know that her friend was in the women’s restroom," said Lt. John Radke with the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau Homicide Unit.
The stepfather then contacted a school employee. They entered the restroom where they found another 15-year-old student who was unresponsive. They called 911 and rendered aid until paramedics arrived. Despite their best efforts, she was declared dead at the scene by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics.
"They went to buy Percocet, which is a narcotic for pain. They both ingested a pill and started feeling ill almost immediately. It’s very common for drug dealers to put fentanyl in almost all pills and many other drugs. Fentanyl is a poison and it’s very dangerous to everyone," Lt. Radke added.
The surviving victim was taken to the hospital in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.
That same night, LAPD detectives also discovered there were at least two other victims of drug overdoses that may be connected to the same drug dealer.
A 17-year-old boy who attends Hollywood High School was taken to the hospital from a different location and reportedly purchased drugs at the same park. In addition, police were informed of another teen victim with signs of an overdose in close proximity.
LAFD paramedics administered Narcan to the fourth victim and did not require hospitalization.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the three victims from Tuesday night account for six cases of drug-related incidents stemming from drugs purchased at Lexington Park in recent weeks and issued a stern warning to the person responsible for selling drugs to the teens.
"For the individual, who, for a number of weeks, has been spreading pain, destruction and now death – rest assured, we’re going to use the full weight and muscle of this school system, the full weight of this city’s law enforcement entity, and the DEA to know who you are, who the people behind you are and we shall bring justice to the grieving parents," Carvalho said.
Police respond to Bernstein High School after a 15-year-old student died from a suspected fentanyl overdose.
"We need to do everything we can to get the word out to everyone ‘don’t take drugs from anyone.’ Don’t even take an aspirin. You don’t know what’s in it," Lt. Radke added.
A GoFundMe page has been launched for Ramos' grieving family. Those interested in helping can click here for more information.
On Wednesday morning, LAUSD officials released the following statement:
"Last evening, Los Angeles Unified became aware that a student passed away on the Helen Bernstein High School campus. Another student was transported with their parent to a local hospital. We are working with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the lead agency on this ongoing investigation, and at this point and due to confidentiality issues, we have no further information to share. However, school will be open today and we will have grief counselors on site and available to support all students and employees. As we work together with LAPD to uncover the details of this tragic situation, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of both students. We also thank everyone for their understanding and support today and we will share more information as it becomes available."
Lt. Radke is hoping parents will warn their children about the dangers of taking drugs amid the ongoing opioid epidemic.
"They need to sit down and talk with their children. They need to talk to them about the consequences of taking anything from someone that they do not know. It puts their life in jeopardy," Lt. Radke said.
Anyone with information on the drug dealer is asked to contact the LAPD.
The investigation is ongoing.