Bahai News -- L.A. Daily News - Students make peace with store owner Article Last Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 1:00:05 AM PST

Students make peace with store owner

Mobil Gas Station Owner Mahmood Behroozi, left, accepts flowers from Canoga Park High anti-war organizers. (John Lazar / Daily News)
Canoga Park High anti-war rally organizers visit looted station

By Jason Kandel
Staff Writer

CANOGA PARK -- Six Canoga Park High students who organized an anti-war march that led to the looting of a gas station convenience store apologized Wednesday to the owner and gave him several gifts.

The six students presented a carnation, sweat shirt and cap bearing the school name to Masood Behroozi, who owns the Mobil gas station at Topanga Canyon and Victory boulevards. They helped organize the March 5 protest against U.S. policy on Iraq but did not participate in the looting.

"What the kids did here, it's not all of Canoga," said Luis Lopez, 16. "We'd like to apologize for that."

Added student Jessica Franco: "We're so sorry that it happened. It honestly wasn't supposed to be like that."

Behroozi, an Iranian native who fled his country with his family in 1985 because of persecution over their Bahai faith, accepted the apology.

"Thank you so much," he said. "Don't blame them. They should change. Not you guys."

Since the protest, Behroozi said he has been visited by remorseful students who had looted his store. Canoga Park High Principal Dennis Thompson also has stopped by the gas station to apologize to Behroozi and invite him to speak to several classes about his experiences.

On March 5, about 500 Canoga Park High students skipped class to participate in a lunchtime anti-war march that was part of a world protest against U.S. foreign policy on Iraq.

A small group broke free and began to loot the gas station convenience store, stealing snack foods and tipping over a display of sunglasses, causing about $500 worth of damage.

This week, police arrested three students on suspicion of petty theft after reviewing store security tapes and a Daily News photo showing students fleeing the ransacked store.

The students, a girl, 16, and two boys, ages 14 and 15, were ordered to appear in Sylmar Juvenile Court for an arraignment within 60 days. They were not identified because of their ages, but police said they are from Los Angeles, Canoga Park and Van Nuys.

And the arrests of at least four others, believed to have initiated the raid, were imminent.

"They're not as cooperative," said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Patti Waters, who is overseeing the case. "I gotta go out and get 'em at some point."

Police said those who have turned themselves in were cooperative and remorseful.

"They were just like, 'I don't know. I wasn't thinking,"' Waters said. "I hope they learn their lesson. I hope that this doesn't happen again."

Thompson also said at least a dozen students will be transferred to other schools this week. An additional three or four students will be placed on probation because they were in the store but were not seen stealing.

"I'm going to put their families on notice that these kids were at a place where they should not have been," said Thompson, who is considering alternative forms of punishment suggested by students, including a benefit carwash to raise money for Behroozi.

Thompson said he's proud of the students who formally apologized to Behroozi on Wednesday.

"They wanted to make sure he knew the type of kids were not typical of what we have at Canoga Park High School. Most of the kids at our school are upset, ashamed and embarrassed at what these students did."

©Copyright 2003, L.A. Daily News (CA, USA)

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