By TERRY COLLINS
RICHMOND, Calif. -- The gang rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl on school grounds after her homecoming dance was horrific enough. But even more shocking, police say, was that up to two dozen people watched and did nothing to stop it.
The attack over the weekend rattled this crime-ridden city of 120,000 in the San Francisco Bay area, where one police official called it one of the most heinous crimes he has ever seen. Some students have already left the school district in response to the attack.
"It's not safe there at all," said 16-year-old Jennie Steinberg, whose mother let her transfer out of the district Tuesday. "I'm not going back."
The victim, a sophomore, had left the dance and was drinking in a school courtyard with a group of students when she was attacked, police said.
Two suspects were in custody Monday, but police said as many as seven ranging in age from 15 to mid-20s attacked the girl for more than two hours at a dimly lit area near benches Saturday night. As many as two dozen people saw the rape without notifying police.
Officers found the girl semiconscious and naked from the waist down near a picnic table. She remains hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
"This was a barbaric act. I still cannot get my head around the fact that numerous people either watched, walked away or participated in her assault," Lt. Mark Gagan said Tuesday. "It's one of the most disturbing crimes in my 15 years as a police officer."
The attack occurred in a city that has dealt with its share of vicious crimes in recent years, and the school recently approved surveillance cameras after a series of violent crimes. In one case a few years back, a student was shot outside the school, ran inside and died in the then-principal's hands, said Marin Trujillo, a spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Richmond is an industrialized conclave near the San Francisco Bay that is known as one of the nation's most dangerous cities. In 2007, Richmond had 47 homicides, and the murder rate led the state for cities with populations of 100,000 or more, surpassing Los Angeles and Oakland.
Manuel Ortega, a 19-year-old former student, was arrested after trying to flee the scene. He is being held on $800,000 bail for investigation of rape and robbery. A 15-year-old student also was booked late Monday on one count of sexual assault, Gagan said.