In the age of Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, Los Angeles police officials say they relied on students at a Reseda high school and their social media skills to help catch a trio of murder suspects Thursday.
About 12:15 a.m., just eight hours after Kevin Orellano, 18, was stabbed to death at Grover Cleveland High School, police descended on a Van Nuys neighborhood and arrested the alleged attackers.
Michael Steven Carpio, 19, of Panorama City, Michelle Pineda, 19, of Los Angeles and Carpio’s 16-year-old brother were booked on suspicion of murder. The 16-year-old’s name was not released because he is a juvenile. Carpio and Pineda are being held on $1-million bail each.
Piece by piece, police said, investigators used witness accounts, social media and the suspects’ rap sheets to piece together the Cleveland High attack.
It started about 4 p.m. Wednesday, police said.
Officials say Carpio and his younger brother approached Orellano as he was playing handball on the north side of the school, adjacent to the sports fields.
Police described the exchange as a typical “hit ‘em up” scenario, where a gang member approaches a civilian and asks “Where you from?” before attacking.
Carpio and his younger brother are documented gang members, police officials said. Orellano, they said, is not a gang member.
After Carpio asked Orellano where he was from, he punched him, Lt. Dennis Ballas said.
While the two fought, Carpio’s younger brother pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed Orellano several times before the two ran off, police said.
Pineda is accused of acting as the getaway driver. Police said she was waiting outside the campus in a maroon minivan.
Students gave chase, and on Twitter, one recalled hopping a fence in pursuit, pumped with adrenaline and disbelief.
Another tweeted Thursday that it was too bad “we couldn’t do more to help him.”
Orellano was pronounced dead at a local hospital, authorities said.
Still, police said students helped where they could.
At least one student recognized the attackers, pointing them out to investigators through social media, Ballas said.
Police said they were able to identify the suspects with the help of students and made the arrests just after midnight on the 15000 block of Roscoe Boulevard in North Hills.
“Grover Cleveland High is a good school with good students and that shows how quickly we were able to apprehend these suspects here,” Ballas said. “It’s a safe campus.”
Students grieved online Thursday. Some said they were going to wear black to school in tribute to Orellano and others changed their Facebook photos to pictures of him. Cleveland students and alumni posted messages with the hashtag #RIPKevin.
Though Orellano wasn’t a current student at Cleveland, he had attended the school on and off for three years before transferring to West Valley Occupational Center in October, a school district official said. Many students at Cleveland appeared to remember him fondly. Carpio also briefly attended the school.
One student shared a photo Wednesday night of what appears to be a Facebook post from Orellano before his 18th birthday.
In it, the person identified as Orellano reflected on his years as a "confused" teen who dabbled in drugs before vowing to turn his life around.“Im not longer that confused little boy that need drugs in his life, I grew up and became a MAN,” he wrote. “So when I turn 18 Ima thank everyone who never gave up on me and saw the good in my heart.”