Two former members of the Glendale Mountain Ridge High School wrestling team have been charged with sexually assaulting another member of the team during a December 2016 tournament in Holbrook, Arizona.
Wrestlers from Mountain Ridge High School have been tied to at least five reports alleging assault on or near campus during the current school year, Glendale police records show.
The information was released after The Arizona Republic reported in April that two students who since have left the school were accused of sexually assaulting a teammate during a wrestling tournament in Holbrook in December. The two were indicted last week in Navajo County Superior Court.
Police reports said the sexual-assault victim, 14 at the time, had told investigators that he was teased after the incident by the team and classmates, and that four other students had approached him afterward to say that they had been assaulted in a similar way.
The Republic filed public-records requests seeking information from Glendale police about any other incidents involving students on the wrestling team during the school year.
Glendale police records show that wrestlers were involved in incidents that occurred on Sept. 15, Sept. 22, Oct. 18, March 13 and April 1.
All of those involved had wrestled in 2016 for Mountain Ridge.
Four incidents took place on the school campus near 67th Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road and one at a nearby park, police records show. Often, multiple wrestlers were involved. In some cases, the incidents were recorded and circulated to other students, police records show.
None of the incidents was sexual in nature. Charges were sought against three wrestlers, and parents in two cases declined to press charges. One teen went through a diversion program, one case was dropped in Juvenile Court, and the status of the third case was not immediately clear.
After one incident, a boy’s parents alleged school administrators and school-district officials were slow to respond to their concerns, allowing bullying and harassment to escalate to an attack that resulted in their son’s concussion.
The Deer Valley Unified School District declined to provide additional information on the specific incidents, citing student-privacy laws.
Below is information obtained from police documents and interviews about each of the five incidents.
3 incidents, 3 different victims
Three different wrestlers were accused of attacking three students, according to police reports from September, March and April.
On Sept. 15, a student was standing outside the school library when he saw a varsity wrestler approach him from the side, swinging a fist toward his head, according to a police report.
Ducking out of the way, the student ran, the police report said. However, the wrestler chased him down and wrapped him in a bear hug. Then the wrestler kneed him, hard, the report said.
School security showed up and led the wrestler away as he continued to yell at the victim.
The student told police that the wrestler had attacked him in the past, including an incident at the school the year before when the wrestler had punched him, resulting in a black eye.
“Me and (redacted) fought. I pushed him first, then he charged me and I punched and kneed him,” the wrestler wrote in his statement.
He told police that he was “having a bad day.”
The wrestler was suspended for five days. The other boy’s parents declined to pursue charges.
On March 13, the school-resource officer, a Glendale police officer, was called to a set of stairs on the west side of campus, where he saw a boy with red marks on his arms and face, according to a police report.
The student shook as he told the officer that a wrestler had pushed him down the stairs and jumped on him after the wrestler had gotten upset that the other student had spoken to the wrestler’s girlfriend, whom the other student had previously dated, the report said.
The wrestler followed him out after class, made fun of his appearance, then ran behind him, pushing him down the rest of the stairs.
Two girls standing nearby were toppled, the report said.
On the ground, the wrestler jumped on the student and punched him. The student said he then put the wrestler in a headlock and punched back so the wrestler would stop hitting him. The fight was then broken up.
After speaking to the principal, the wrestler was escorted off campus.
In his statement, the wrestler wrote: “(Redacted) was disrespecting women. I pushed him down the stairs and then I picked him up and dropped him.”
No parents wanted to seek prosecution.
On April 1, a 15-year-old was riding his bike in a park to his friend’s house when a wrestler driving his truck pulled up and shoved him off the bike, according to a police report.
Two passengers in the car, who were wrestlers, recorded as the teen was shoved down again after he got up. He fell and was kicked repeatedly as the passengers watched, laughing, the police report said.
“Let’s go,” a friend is heard on the video, laughing. “Go, go, go, go.”
The teen sustained a broken bone in his face, plus facial bruising and swelling, the police report said. His eyes were swollen shut and had various cuts around them, the report said.
He told police that earlier that day in a text-messaging chat with several people, the wrestler had threatened to fight him at the park. He hadn’t taken it seriously, the teen said. He didn’t know why the wrestler would want to fight him.
The wrestler, in an interview with police, indicated the fight occurred over a girl, although redactions to the report make it unclear what had occurred.
A groupof friends, including the other wrestlers and students from other high schools, had egged him on to start the fight, the wrestler said. They had gone looking for the victim at his home and saw him at the park while driving by.
Aggravated-assault charges were submitted to Maricopa County Juvenile Court. The status of the case was not immediately known.
2 reports of attacks on special-needs student
The Sept. 22 and Oct. 18 police reports involve the same boy and two wrestlers who since have left Mountain Ridge.
The parents of the boy said during an early-May interview that they suspect their son was repeatedly harassed, bullied and assaulted by wrestlers on campus and online because of his autism and severe anxiety.
The parents’ names are not being used by The Republic to protect the identity of their son.
“Was he targeted by this group of students because of his disabilities and differences?” his father said.
It began Sept. 20, they said, when their son was eating lunch. A varsity wrestler confronted him in the cafeteria, calling him various names.
“I hear you’re talking crap about me,” the wrestler said, according to the police report.
“No I haven’t,” the boy said he responded. “I have never even really talked to you in my life.”
Then the wrestler walked away.
The next day, when the teen got his lunch tray and walked to his usual eating spot, the wrestler was sitting in his seat, waiting. The teen sat down, and the same conversation as the day before was repeated, according to the police report. Eventually, the wrestler walked back to his table of fellow wrestlers.
When the bell rang at the end of the day and the boy walked toward the bus, the wrestler shoulder-checked him, then shoved him, the police report said.
The boy said he shoved back. Nothing happened, so the boy turned around and was walking to the bus when he was tackled from behind, the police report said.
The wrestler then used wrestling techniques and threw the victim over his shoulder, the police report said. They struggled and when the boy tried to advance toward the wrestler, a fellow wrestler held him back.
They then walked away and the boy quickly got on the bus.
The next morning, the boy said the wrestler was waiting for him. He was with a group of teammates. They started yelling profanities until the bell rang.
At lunch, it was the same scenario, but this time the wrestler slid the victim’s chair out as he tried to sit.
“Knock it off. I am done with your crap. I’m done playing games,” the boy told officers he said.
One of the wrestler’s friends, another wrestler, stepped in. “I’ll beat the (expletive) out of you. I just got off a suspension for fighting,” the report quoted him as saying.
He had returned from the Sept. 15 assault.
“You are a (expletive). We will jump you if you try to hit (redacted),” another wrestler threatened.
The wrestlers then egged him to join them in a bathroom to fight. The boy told police he walked away.
A friend texted the boy later that day: “Please watch out. I’ve heard rumors that they’re going to try to get to you before you get to the bus and attack you.”
On the way to the bus after school on campus, the wrestler was there again.
Before anything was said, the wrestler pushed the boy’s face and then went low, grabbing him by the thighs and picking him up, the police report said. He then slammed him onto the concrete.
The boy jumped up and swung, hitting the suspect twice before he was again tackled.
“I don’t remember what happened after that but at some point I got dropped to the ground again,” he told police.
He continued to fight back as the wrestler repeatedly dropped him to the ground until the monitor pulled them apart. They were both taken to the office, he said.
“What was I supposed to do, just stand there and get hurt?” the boy asked police. “I had to stand up to him.”
Both boys were given a five-day suspension. The administration and the resource officer called it “mutual combat.”
Parent: ‘My son was in danger’
The victim’s parents told The Republic they made multiple attempts to tell school officials that more had occurred than what the officer had witnessed.
“My son’s now afraid to go to school,” his mother said she told administrators.
Their son was now threatened by other students who were upset that the wrestler, a popular student, had been suspended because of the fight, she said.
Video of the assault circulated on social media and the wrestler went online to continue his harassment, the police report said.
“Teaching kids to tell teachers if they have a problem creates victims. You’re gonna be an adult in a couple years, stand up for your self,” the wrestler tweeted.
Their son continued to report problems. The wrestler would antagonize him on campus, walking by, flexing and threatening to beat him up.
The wrestler was suspended a few more times but the harassment didn’t stop, the parents said. At one point, the wrestler created a petition to keep him on campus.
The mother filed an order of injunction against the wrestler at school to stay away from the boy, but it was broken on at least two occasions, police records say.
The school conducted its own investigation, which resulted in a two-page report, the parents said.
“They weren’t taking it seriously at all. My son was in danger,” the boy’s mother said.
Confrontation in a school bathroom
The boy told police that the varsity wrestler previously suspended for fighting in the Sept. 15 assault had continued to threaten him.
“I’ve been called a snitch, retarded, fat, spineless, lots of other things,” the boy told officers.
“(Redacted) stared at me in the hallways and mocked me. Threatened to beat me up.”
In an interview, a witness told police the wrestler had a violent history.
“(Redacted) has this tendency … I think he’s joking but he goes off and tries to aggravate people. I guess (redacted) just wasn’t having it. It went from them getting after each other verbally to fighting,” the student said
On Oct. 18, the wrestler, through antagonistic texts and in-person comments, drew the boy into the bathroom to fight, the police report said.
“I was just trying to get it to stop. I would get suspended to make it stop. I would do anything to make it stop,” the boy told police.
Soon after he entered the bathroom, he was head-butted, kneed and elbowed, the police report said.
“I felt like the whole world was like waving around,” the boy recalled. “The only thing I could think of was don’t collapse, don’t fall down.”
“Were you fighting back?” the investigator asked.
“Yeah … I was trying to do anything I could to get him off of me,” the boy answered.
The boy said that he had “no option to get out.” Other wrestlers and students were in the bathroom watching.
The fight continued until the bell rang for class.
When the students fled the bathroom, the boy said he staggered to the mirror and saw blood on his arms and shirt, the sink, the floor, the wall and the urinal the wrestler had tried to push his head into.
He went to go get help from someone he trusted, one of his special-education teachers. But their rooms were locked, so he returned to the bathroom.
A student walked in and helped him clean up. He was urged to see the nurse but the victim said he couldn’t.
“They can’t do anything or they don’t help,” the boy recalled he said.
He said he jumped the school fence and called his mom.
The victim’s parents learned that Principal Shona Miranda and the Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Junior Michael were off campus at the district office. They said they knew they had to make a point while they could, so they drove directly there.
District officials, Miranda and Michael were stunned, the parents said.
“Don’t worry. This isn’t going to happen again,” they said the officials assured them.
Medical records from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital show that the victim was diagnosed with a concussion.
Police records show the wrestler is an investigative lead in an unlawful shooting that occurred in December 2015. A Mountain Ridge student called police early one morning to report that his mother’s vehicle parked in the driveway had been shot at twice.
The boy’s mother was out of town, he told police. Asked who might want to mess with him, the boy responded that the wrestler he had seen on campus might have wanted revenge when he had called police when he witnessed the wrestler attempt to break into a car parked next door the day before.
Police records show the shooting investigation remains open.
2 wrestlers leave Mountain Ridge
By December, the boy’s parents said both wrestlers involved no longer were at the school. Although they had been on the roster for the wrestling team, they weren’t at the school for the season.
Juvenile charges were filed against both teens. The wrestler involved in the first assault on Sept. 22 admitted to his involvement and went through a first-offense diversion program, the parents said.
The charges in the Oct. 18 bathroom assault were dropped by Juvenile Court, according to police reports.
The incident was cited as mutual combat, the parents told The Republic. They appealed but were told that it wouldn’t be processed because it was “just two teens fighting.”
Sgt. Scott Waite, Glendale police spokesman, said, “A lot of time on these types of situations, there’s the debate of whether it is assault or mutual combat. And so it’s hard for these officers because we get thrown into the situation.”
Waite said how when two boys are willing to meet and fight, it no longer matters at that point who threw the punch. Two people are then engaged in mutual combat.
“But that’s the black-and-white answer,” he said.
Waite said it is important to weigh other factors in the scenario, such has how much an individual is coerced into action, how much threat is involved, and if there is an advantage of one’s mental capability at play.
“I try to explain to parents that there are two sides of every story. Just make sure you have all the information before moving forward. This includes gathering evidence, but also talking to the administration and your child to have all the facts.”
Waite said he believed the victim’s parents made the right decision to press charges. And that all parents should be adamant about what they want done.
“If you want a report taken and you want it documented, it is your right,” he said. “Get an injunction. We’ll serve them at school. We aren’t biased on when, where and who it is to. We protect victims.”
Their son remains on campus, his parents said, because of his good relationship with his teachers.
“When talking about moving schools, he got emotional,” his mother said. “There he has teachers he knows and works well with. Changing schools would do more harm, sadly.”
Deer Valley district responds
Deer Valley Unified spokeswoman Monica Allread said a comprehensive investigation was conducted after the Sept. 22 incident and that procedures were followed and disciplinary actions were taken to ensure that a threat no longer remained on campus.
“I can say the administration at the school deals very swiftly when it comes to discipline. We want to make sure that students are in a safe place where they can learn,” Allread said.
“If it appears mutual, I can see where police say they don’t have a case because the student appears to be an assaulter as well,” Allread said, speaking broadly about these type of scenarios. “But if you’re deemed the victim and not also a mutual partner, we would definitely help file (complaints with police).”
After reports of the Holbrook incident emerged in April, the Deer Valley school district released a statement that “corrective actions” had been taken, including character education for athletes and increased education for athletes about reporting any incidents.
The boy’s mother said, “If they would have started all of this back in September with our son, maybe this could have all been avoided.”
The guardian of the victim in the Holbrook case said she had wished she was aware of other incidents that wrestlers and former wrestlers on campus were involved in.
“I feel really bad. I encouraged him to join the wrestling team,” the guardian said. “Had I known, I would have had him stay away.”
The school, while assisting her in filing a police report, wanted the guardian not to talk to anyone about the case, she told The Republic.
“They wanted to keep it quiet. The coach never talked to me, either,” she said.
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