On the last night of Hayk Oganyan’s life he attended a frat party near CSUN. It was a Saturday night and there was a festive mood in the air as college students celebrated spring break, birthdays and upcoming graduations.
Oganyan, a GCC student, was leaving the nondescript house in the 8800 block of Corbin Avenue, near Nordhoff Street with a friend shortly before 11:45 p.m. on April 11, when they were confronted by three men who demanded their wallets. Although they complied, both of them were stabbed multiple times – Oganyan in the chest and fatally in the upper chest near his neck, his friend was stabbed in the back. Oganyan died in Northridge Hospital at 3:15 a.m. on Easter morning, four days before his 20th birthday.
Oganyan is remembered by his friend Joe Kazazian as representing “a cross section of the Armenian experience in California, a snippet of Little Armenia.” Oganyan and Kazazian attended the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School together; Oganyan graduated from John Marshall High School in 2007.
“I remember the day Hayk was standing in line to get his cap and gown,” said Gohar Janoyan, one of Oganyan’s classmates from Marshall. “The whole time he was saying ‘man, I hope I get it, I wonder if they will give it to me.’ When it was his turn, the minute they handed him the bag, his face just brightened up with a BIG smile and he said ‘oh my god.’
He turned to everyone in line said ‘good luck, guys,’ and then as he was walking across the basketball court he jumped up in the air screamed ‘YEAH BABY, I DID IT!’ Hayk was always making us laugh and always walking around with that huge bright smile on his face.”
Oganyan was not considered the most stellar of students, but his enthusiasm was contagious. “As far as his schoolwork, he hadn’t decided his major yet,” remembered Lilit Petrosyan, a member of the honors biology club. “He always took different classes trying to see what he liked and he loved trying new things…at one point he wanted to be a photographer.”
Armig Khodanian, another friend, was surprised to find that he had taken a theater arts class last semester. “Hayk was always goofing around,” she said. “He made everyone feel like they were his best friend.”
Oganyan was a popular member of the young Armenian community, making friends easily with his winning smile and laid-back demeanor. He was an active member of the Glendale Armenian Athletic Association, also known as “Homenmen.” The organization strives to engage Armenian youngsters in sporting, scouting and cultural events.
With Homenmen, Oganyan played basketball, served on a number of committees and was also a member of the Armenian Gaidz Youth Organization, which promotes Armenian cultural values. He volunteered at various Armenian-American community events in Southern California.
“Hayk was the sweetest guy,” said Amy Baveyan, another of Oganyan’s many friends. “I’ll never forget his beautiful smile, his warm heart and adorable face! He wasn’t supposed to die; it wasn’t his time. He didn’t get a chance to get married, have children, grandchildren and so on…
He was taken too early. He was always full of life. He was one of those people who would walk into a room and brighten it up for everyone. Everyone that had a chance to meet Hayk can be considered a lucky person.”
With 34,560 students, Cal State Northridge is one of the biggest universities in California. It has more students and it has more crime, including assault, rape and murder. The sheer volume of crimes of all types is high compared to other schools, even allowing for the more-people-equals-more-crime factor. Largely, this is due to the surrounding neighborhoods and its status as a commuter campus; students tend to be victimized not on campus, but off.
At least 10 Northridge students died violently in 2008, according to Ke’onna Green and Jillian Shayer in a 2009 article published in The Daily Sundial, the campus newspaper, from causes ranging the gamut from hit-and-run vehicular manslaughter to murder.
Hayk Oganyan was a Glendale student, lived in Hollywood, and his murder occurred near off-campus housing and on spring break. His killing will not be included in crime statistics for the university. However, the chain of events that led to his death was inexorably linked to a culture clash that is becoming increasingly prevalent in Northridge: gang violence.
The only witness to Oganyan’s murder was his friend, the other victim. He described three Latino men in their early 20s with shaved heads wearing white t-shirts and dark pants. The killer sported a goatee.
Khodanian believes that robbery was not the motivation for the attack and that the gang initiation of the killer was actually taking place instead. “This experience has been extremely difficult to deal with,” said Khodanian. “Hayk was an innocent victim in this harsh act of violence. people should be aware of how dangerous gang violence can actually be.”
Devonshire Homicide Detective Michael Fesperman confirms that gang involvement is a consideration in the case, but until a suspect is arrested, this cannot be verified.
At 11:45 p.m. on April 11, Devonshire Area Patrol Officers responded to an urgent radio call – “a stabbing just occurred!” When the officers arrived, the assailants were gone and “partygoers who were attending the birthday and graduation celebration directed the officers to two males who were suffering from multiple stab wounds,” said Fesperman in an April 13 press statement.
Fesperman declined to name the second victim, because of concerns relating to his safety.
Los Angeles City Fire Department also responded and immediately began to treat Oganyan’s multiple stab wounds.?Despite efforts to save him, Hayk Oganyan died later that evening during surgery to repair a severed artery. The second victim was also transported to a nearby hospital where he was listed in stable condition and later released.
Fesperman described the party as “as a birthday party with about 40-80 people attending. It wasn’t crazy or out-of-control.” He said that first aid was given by partygoers until help arrived.
Fesperman said that he has not ruled out gang initiation as being a motivating factor for the attackers. “this neighborhood is not especially dangerous, Hayk didn’t go off by himself and it wasn’t late. This crime is absolutely disgusting, senseless…” said Fesperman.
“These kids weren’t doing anything wrong, they complied [with their attackers] and they were stabbed anyway.”
He confirmed that the actual attack occurred on Gersham, a smaller street off Corbin, which is a well-lit, larger street, and that the victims came back to the house to seek help.
“Hayk had absolutely no involvement with gangs; he was not that type of a person,” said a long-time associate of Oganyan, who requested anonymity.
When the source was asked about some photographs where Oganyan appeared to be flashing gang signs, “He was just a silly guy. He was always goofing around, making jokes, but he was definitely not involved in any type of gang activity.”
“My cousin was at that party,” she continued. “He knew Hayk really well and went to the hospital with him. This is what he told me: That night [April 11] Hayk was at the party with a lot of his friends when he decided to go outside and get his phone from his car. His friends realized he had taken a while to get back so they went to check up on him and noticed him getting beat up by the three men, who had been seen hanging out around the house earlier that night.
As Hayk’s friend tried to help him he was stabbed, so he ran to get help. In the meantime, the three men stabbed Hayk, who was begging for his life, in the neck twice. The ambulance took about 20 minutes to get there and when they did they rushed Hayk to the ER and operated on him.
Hayk was an extremely friendly, funny, and energetic guy. He didn’t deserve this because he was just doing what we all do and it wasn’t even late out, it was only 11:30. This was an obvious gang initiation process and Hayk just happened to be at the wrong place at the time.”
Oganyan’s HokiHangist, Armenian for “Soul Rest” was held on his birthday, April 16, at the Church on Alexandria in front of the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School. His viewing and funeral were held at Forest Lawn (Los Feliz) the following weekend.
“His mother is absolutely devastated,” said Fesperman. She’s just the nicest lady and then this happens. Hayk was born in Armenia on Easter and died in America on Easter. What am I supposed to tell her?”
Fesperman is trying to get the Los Angeles City Council to commit $50,000 towards a reward for information leading to the capture of Oganyan’s murderer. “It’s too bad that we need to offer a reward to get people to do the right thing,” said Fesperman, “but someone out there knows who did this.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact Devonshire Homicide Detective Michael Fesperman at (818) 832-0609.? During off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour, toll-free number at 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247).?
Callers may also text “Crimes” with a cell phone or log on to www.lapdonline.org and click on Web tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with “LAPD.”? Tipsters may remain anonymous.
Lilit Petrosyan created a slideshow with some of Hayk Oganyan’s photos and comments from friends. http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1138927628934&ref=nf
A POEM FOR HAYK: Hovsep Gazan Tulekyan, a Northridge student, wrote this poem in Armenian (using the Latin alphabet) to honor the tragedy of a life too quickly passed. Oganyan’s savage murder has sparked outrage in the Armenian community.
Txur e [email protected] arants qez
Karotov anverj menq qez enq pntrum
Achkers mnats qo janaparhin
Haverj heratsar ays puch ashxarits.
Karotov toxir aystex boloris
Artsunqov toxir aystex tanjvox qo mor [email protected]
Arants qez aystex txur e antsnum
Na er misht kangnats mer mejqin.
Amen inch eir aystex mez hamar
Uraxutyun eir mer bolori hamar
Hpartutyun mer hamar
U mi amboxj kyank tsnoxnerit hamar.
U hima nstats artsunqn achqeris
Grum em yes im srti [email protected] qez
Hayk jan imatsir vor sirum enk qez
Vor karotov anverj menq kspasenq qez.