2 Teen-Agers Shot to Death in a Brooklyn School

2 Teen-Agers Shot to Death in a Brooklyn School

Two teen-agers were shot to death at point-blank range in the hallway of a Brooklyn high school yesterday morning, little more than an hour before Mayor David N. Dinkins was to visit the troubled school to tell students they had the power to break free of the world of violence and drugs.

The brazen killing at Thomas Jefferson High School took place just 15 feet away from two police officers who were part of the school's normal security detail, the police said. Thirteen security guards were also in the school, and an additional 10 police officers were assigned outside for the Mayor's visit.

A Jefferson student pulled out a .38-caliber pistol and without a word shot 17-year-old Ian Moore once in the chest and 16-year-old Tyrone Sinkler once in the back of the head, on the second floor of the high school, the police said. He ran out a back door, with school security guards in pursuit, and was caught two blocks away. The police identified the suspect as Khalil Sumpter, 15 years old.

"I'm standing there," said Lewis Tanner, 19, who was in the hallway near the shooting. "I had my head down. I heard shots and I ran." He said other students were also running and crying. "I didn't see what happened because I ran," he said. "Thank God I got away. They weren't looking for me." Third Youth Shot in Head

The two victims were dead on arrival at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, the police said.

Hours after the slayings, a third teen-ager, who had been a friend of the slain youths, was found in his East New York home with a gunshot wound to the head and a .32-caliber revolver nearby. The police initially said the shooting appeared to be a suicide attempt, but later a police spokesman said it might have been an accident.

The friend, Marlin Smith, 16, was found by his mother, who had been alerted by school officials that her son was distraught, said Sgt. Ed Burns, a police spokesman. But early this morning, Sergeant Burns said a friend of Mr. Smith, who had been talking to him on the phone at the time, had told the police that Mr. Smith had been handling a gun that had gone off accidentally. Mr. Smith was in critical condition last night.

Detectives investigating the Jefferson case said the shooting at the high school was a result of a long-festering feud that began after Mr. Sumpter and Mr. Sinkler were both arrested for a robbery in 1990. Only one of the youths served time, which bred distrust and deepening conflict, said Detective Sgt. Michael Race of the 75th Precinct. A Volatile Mix

Mr. Sumpter was charged in the slayings as an adult. He faces two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of criminal possession of a deadly weapon and two counts of criminal use of a deadly weapon.

The shootings -- at one of the city's most violent high schools -- dramatized the volatile mix of children and guns and gave new urgency to a rising debate over safety in the schools.

"You have got to learn from this," Mr. Dinkins, his voice tense, implored several hundred students who were packed into the two-tiered auditorium when he arrived to speak about 70 minutes after the 8:40 A.M. shooting. "You must learn from this. So please help me. Help your principal. Help yourselves." The youths sat shaken, many holding their heads down in their hands.

Crowds of neighborhood residents had been held back by the police when the Mayor's car arrived under police escort, lights flashing. Mr. Dinkins quickly moved through a crowd of reporters into the school, as angry and teary youths passed him on their way out.

The killings came just three months after another student was cut down by gunfire and a teacher critically wounded in the same East New York high school, a brick structure whose immaculate pink halls contrast with the near-desolate landscape of project housing and empty, litter-strewn lots. The November shooting was only the second killing of a student in a New York City school in more than a decade.

Since then, students have been screened with metal detectors about once a week in spot security checks intended to weed out the hidden knives and guns that the youths say they carry to protect themselves from street violence -- and now violence in the school. Their grim neighborhood, which they described as a terrifying turf of night gun fire and drug deals, had the second-highest homicide rate in the city in 1990.

"Anybody could just come up to you and shoot you," Eddie Alvarez, 14, said describing the battered blocks of East New York where he said he has seen at least 10 friends die. "I've just grown used to it because I've lived here all my life."

There were no metal detectors in use yesterday, despite the Mayor's impending arrival. The detectors were to have been used Tuesday, the original date for the Mayor's appearance. But the principal, Carol A. Burt-Beck, had asked that the security check be postponed because it would set the wrong mood, school officials said. Fernandez Calls Meeting

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez called a meeting of the city's 120 high school principals this afternoon to discuss violence in the schools, and announced that metal detectors would now be used daily at Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Dinkins had struck out of the current city budget most of the $50 million that the schools had sought for security, including $2.5 million for the school metal detection program. He left $3 million to be spent solely on "conflict resolution."

The metal detection program now consists of four teams of 30 security guards with hand-held metal detectors who visit 19 high schools and two junior high schools, roughly once a week.

"What does that do? Nothing," said Nancy Santiago, 17, near tears, who was standing on the sidewalk outside the high school. "Most of the people can have a gun, they can hide it in lockers," she said. "Everybody's saying they should close the school. It would be better closed."

At Brooklyn Borough Hall, Borough President Howard Golden said: "Tragedy might have been averted had the school been equipped with metal detectors. Some educators feel that metal detectors are dehumanizing. Today we see the ultimate dehumanizing act -- the taking of human life."

Mr. Dinkins, the city's first black Mayor, had originally planned to speak of his own life yesterday to the students, all black and Hispanic, to show them that they could escape the hardships of the neighborhood and of broken homes, his aides said. But he arrived just before 10 A.M. to a school in chaos.

As the Mayor walked quickly from his car though a crowd of reporters into the schools, several students headed out, some in tears. "This is crazy," said Larril Jones, 15, who stormed down the front steps, his bookbag over his shoulder. "People are getting shot in school. People got stabbed last week."

The Mayor spoke to the hundreds of students who remained, under a black-and-white banner bearing the picture of the slain civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the slogan, "The choice today is not between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence."

"You don't have to prove your manhood by beating on other people. That's not the answer," he said. The students cheered and applauded when he praised their principal as a "magnificent" woman who "cares deeply about you."

Mr. Dinkins spoke of his own childhood, growing up with his mother, who was separated from her husband, and with his grandmother, both of them domestic workers. "I could say that I was a product of a broken home," he said. "And I could think of a lot of times along the way when I could have just quit and blamed it on somebody else and said, 'I don't have to succeed because I am the product of a broken home. But that is a lot of nonsense."

"When we think like that and behave like that what we do is harm ourselves," he said. He moved to the back of the stage where he took the principal's hand, spoke to her quietly, then embraced her. A Vote to Cancel School

After Mr. Dinkins spoke, Mrs. Burt-Beck asked how many students would be going home and a sea of hands went up across the auditorium. When she asked who wanted to stay in school, only a few responded.

Later yesterday, shaken teachers met in the same auditorium in an emotional, two-hour discussion in which they agonized how to teach such troubled students and how to help them escape the brutality of the streets.

They voted almost unanimously to demand that school be canceled today and tomorrow -- with students allowed only for counseling -- so that they could consider ways to respond to the violence. Teachers emerging from the session had said they would carry out what would amount to a two-day strike, if the chancellor did not agree.

But early last night, James Vlasto, a spokesman for the Mr. Fernandez, the schools chancellor, said the situation had been resolved in meetings with teachers union officials -- including Sandra Feldman, president of the United Federation of Teachers -- and that the school day would not be canceled.

Mrs. Burt-Beck said she would do everything she could to keep the school open. "The kids need us at this point," she said. "Most of my children don't have a place to go."

Mrs. Burt-Beck said that since she came to the Thomas Jefferson High School in the summer of 1987, 50 of her students had died. She has set aside grieving rooms in the school and now plans to create a memorial garden with award money she received when Reader's Digest named her an "American Hero in Education" in May 1991.

"I'm the person who's supposed to keep the children safe," she said. When something like this happens I feel like I failed."

At the school's library last night, about 40 school, community and religious leaders, including the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Councilwoman Priscilla Wooten, who represents the area, met and decided to organize a march on Monday to draw attention to the issue of violence among young people. The march will pass several schools in East New York.