Young, Gay and Murdered: The Senseless Killing of Larry King

Share the Article

Written for TheBlot
Valentine Road” is a documentary telling the story of 15-year-old Larry King, who was shot twice in the back of the head by classmate Brandon McInerney in Oxnard, CA, in 2008. It aired on HBO on Oct. 7. Filmmaker Marta Cunningham did a thorough job of depicting the details of the tragedy in a reporting mode rather than editorializing. The audience is left to come to their own conclusions.
The sad truth is that both boys came from abusive childhoods. Larry and his brother were adopted. When bruises were discovered on Larry’s body, he was put in a shelter.
Brandon’s childhood was equally troubled; his mother was addicted to methamphetamine while she was pregnant; his half-brothers were riddled with drug and alcohol issues, and when his drug-addicted mom went to rehab Brandon moved in with his violent and verbally abusive father. Brandon was forced to go with his dad on crystal meth drug runs, and his father regularly beat up Brandon and even broke his nose. Brandon’s brother said, “He was just a little kid pushed to the brink.” Brandon’s grandfather displayed his guns with pride, so Brandon was just one more rageful kid with easy access to firearms.
Larry got his first taste of friendship and kindness in the shelter and began to feel accepted. Five-foot-one Larry liked to look pretty. He wore earrings, makeup, high heels and dresses. His mannerisms became more and more feminine.
Meanwhile, Brandon, a six-foot jock, was being exposed to white supremacy and Nazi ideology. His notebooks were filled with drawings of Third Reich symbols; inside his backpack police found Hitler’s manifesto. Since Larry was half black and transgendered, one could say it was a hate crime. The defense argued that Brandon was only doing research for a school report about Hitler. However, white supremacist materials were also found in Larry’s home.
The film shows how Larry’s school failed him. No one on the staff was knowledgeable enough to help guide and support Larry with his gender issues. The more Larry came out, the happier he seemed, and the more flamboyant he became. Many townspeople told the filmmaker that the murder was Larry’s fault because of his flamboyancy. They saw Brandon as a victim of sexual harassment.
Larry was bullied constantly. He was jeered at, ostracized and beaten, but he also had friends — all girls — and one day during a Valentine’s Day game, Larry acted on a dare. He interrupted Brandon’s basketball game to tell Brandon he had a crush on him. Larry asked Brandon to be his Valentine.
Brandon felt humiliated in front of his buddies. Two days later, Brandon shot Larry in their computer lab class, at point-blank range. The shooting was made up of so many embroiled issues: bullying, intolerance for the LGBT community, racism, hatred, white supremacy, violent childhoods, our judicial system and America’s appalling lack of gun control.
The trial was covered in the movie. Brandon was tried as an adult even though he was only 14 at the time of the shooting, and many felt that he should have been tried as a juvenile. The main questions at stake were if this was a hate crime and premeditated murder, or if Brandon was pushed to his limits and snapped. The defense argued that it was a crime of passion.
The first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict. During the second trial, the prosecution dropped the hate crime charge and Brandon pleaded guilty to avoid a possible life sentence. He received 21 years and won’t get out until he is 39.
It’s disturbing to listen to locals who felt that it was all so unfair and that Brandon didn’t deserve the punishment he got — oblivious to the fact that Brandon murdered Larry.
Touching moments come whenever Larry’s teacher Dawn Boldrin is speaking. Dawn presents Larry as smart, kind and compassionate. Dawn was fond of Larry and witnessed how much he enjoyed dressing up. She described him as a “sweetheart.” One day Dawn brought Larry a costume dress that her daughter had worn. Larry was thrilled.
That incidence of kindness cost Dawn her teaching job. The intolerance of the LGBT world by the staff and so many of the townspeople is blatant and chilling. Locals wear “Free Brandon” buttons, while Larry’s grieving friends movingly describe the hate and ignorance in the town where he grew up — and was shot down.
This documentary goes beyond the issue of gun control to help us understand all of the aspects in this crime that converged and brought about a senseless killing.
October is National Bullying Prevention month. Click the link if you’d like to add your name to the petition, “The End of Bullying Begins With Me”.