MCSO recommending assault charges in off-campus fight in Anthem | #schoolsaftey

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — A Phoenix family’s son who was seen on video fighting against a group of teens asked the sheriff’s office to investigate the case. The family believed their son was a victim of indiscriminate violence by a group of students who are linked to other alleged incidents of wrongdoing.

After seven months, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office finally concluded its investigation of the Feb. 8 fight. Detectives recommended five students be charged with assault, including the family’s then-17-year-old son.

Heather Trask is the teen’s mother. She said her son acted out of self-defense and is incapable of instigating a fight with anyone. Trask was shocked to learn her son is being blamed for what she calls “an unprovoked and unwarranted attack on my son.”

“He’s a good student, respectful to his teachers. He’s never fought. Not even with his brother,” Trask said.

Her son did not finish the school year at Boulder Canyon High School and has not returned for his senior year because he suffers from PTSD and anxiety, Trask said.

“It has just been so traumatic for my son. Just no justice, no consequences,” Trask said.

A spokesperson for MCSO said interviews and evidence stemming from the investigation suggest Trask’s son initiated physical contact by grabbing one boy by the throat and pushing him against a car. After that, the melee ensued. Photos show Trask’s son had deep scrapes and abrasions on his torso, back and face. He suffered a cut above one eye.

According to MCSO, the junior at Boulder Canyon High School was walking to his parked car around 1:30 pm on Feb. 8. MCSO said at least one boy in a group of students walking behind Trask’s son threw rocks in his direction. One rock hit him. Trask’s son did not know the boys.

What happened next is disputed.

Trask said her son approached the group of teens and asked them who threw the rocks. They denied knowing anything. He then asked another group of students who directed him back to the first group, saying the rocks came from them. Trask’s son asked the first group again, and one of the students confessed he threw the rocks and asked him what he would do about it.

“All my son remembers is the kid lunged towards him and he was suddenly on the ground and he was getting kicked and punched by others. It was a blur for him,” Trask said.

A spokesperson for Deer Valley Unified School District said after the incident school administrators met with the students involved and put into place a safety plan and procedures to prevent the students involved in the fight from interacting while on campus. The school also turned over video evidence to MCSO for its investigation.

“BCHS administration handled the situation appropriately and we fully support their work in creating a safe environment for all students,” said DVUSD Spokesperson Brian Killgore.

But Trask alleged the district did not take seriously enough the incident and other alleged acts of violence involving some of the same students.

State Rep. Alex Kolodin reached out to the district governing board on Trask’s behalf on June 21st, alleging “a culture of unchecked violence” at Boulder Creek High School.

“This was not a routine fight but cheap shots and haymakers from a gang of students against one grounded victim,” Kolodin wrote. “Blithely suggesting there is nothing to be done because they were technically off-campus is shameful when you have the authority and rationale to discipline students for off-campus behavior.”

School Board member Kimberly Fisher followed up in an email to Deer Valley Unified School District Superintendent Curtis Finch, asking him for a response to Kolodin.

A subsequent email written by Finch on June 28 to Fisher stated the incident was handled appropriately by school administrators. Finch noted the incident happened off campus and Finch blamed just one student.

“Mom (Trask) is not getting help from police or witnesses to collaborate her story so picking on the school is easier,” Finch wrote in the email. “Typical legislator – it’s easier to write a letter than pick up the phone and find out what really happened. Her kid was to blame, but she denies it.”

Fisher responded to Finch, asking he explain why he believed “her kid was to blame.”

“I am not sure I could imagine what situation would justify a group abusing an individual, physically or mentally,” Fisher wrote.

Finch responded the same day in another email to Fisher: “He had the chance to walk away and didn’t and made the situation worse,” Finch wrote.

Trask said the emails show the superintendent did not take the matter seriously.

“For the superintendent to say my son could have prevented this, that it was his fault, is so irresponsible,” Trask told 12News this week.

12News asked Finch this week why he only blames one student for a fight that clearly shows several kids kicking and punching one student. Killgore responded on behalf of Finch and said by email the district’s investigation concluded “the rock/gravel was not thrown with intent to injure and the student was not the intended target.”

“The investigation of the entire incident showed the student in question was an active participant in the altercation and initiated the physical component of the confrontation,” Killgore said.

Trask called the district’s statement “confounding.”

“Regardless of what the school district insinuates, or would like to spin here, the reality is that the rocks that were thrown did in fact hit my son, and the boy who threw it admitted to it, just moments before he and his group of bullies jumped and viciously beat my son,” Trask said.

Trask also alleges some of the teens involved in the incident have a pattern of causing trouble.

“I’ve spoken to other families. It appears to be a group of kids that just want to cause harm and damage,” Trask said.

Responding to concerns raised by Trask in March, a district administrator validated – at least in part – her suspicions.

,” said Scott Warner, director of school operations and athletics for DVUSD in an email written to Trask. “We take the safety and security of our campuses very seriously and work very hard to make our students and staff feel safe. I am sorry for your son’s troubles in the aftermath of the incident in February.”

12News has requested investigative records from MCSO to learn what evidence detectives obtained. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office could decide to file charges against none or all of the teens.

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