Sahuarita wrestlers charged in assault

Nine accused of taunting student, removing his pants in locker room
2013-01-18T00:00:00Z 2013-01-21T12:45:02Z Sahuarita wrestlers charged in assaultVeronica M. Cruz and Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Nine Sahuarita High School wrestlers are facing kidnapping and aggravated assault charges in connection with an incident involving another student at the school, police said.

Three of the students facing charges are of adult age and were named by police. Six are juveniles, and their names were not released Thursday.

The three 18-year-olds facing charges, Andres Vasquez of Amado, and Jorge Loya-Lopez and Marcus Stitts, both of Sahuarita, were booked into Pima County jail.

Three of the minors arrested were ordered by a judge to remain in custody at the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center. One of them is scheduled to be back in court Jan. 29 and the other two Feb. 1.

The status of the other three juveniles was not immediately known.

Authorities said the arrests stem from an incident that took place late Tuesday afternoon in the school gym locker room.

There, a group of students was seen forcing another student to the ground and assaulting him, Sgt. Matt McGlone, a Sahuarita Police Department spokesman, said in a news release.

The victim, who is not on the wrestling team, was surrounded by seven to 10 students, according to interim complaints filed in court.

"The victim was forced to the ground and forcibly held by four individuals. The victim's pants and underwear were forcibly removed," state the documents.

At least one student exposed himself to the victim and committed a lewd act on the victim, police said.

The assault lasted two to five minutes, and the victim was taunted by the entire group, the court documents said.

Interviews conducted by police indicate the assault was a bullying or hazing incident. Police are still investigating to determine "the exact nature of the event," McGlone said in the police news release.

Police provided the district with more details about the investigation Wednesday morning, said Manuel Valenzuela, Sahuarita Unified School District superintendent.

The nine suspects were not in school Thursday, although Valenzuela would not elaborate on whether anyone had been suspended.

Valenzuela did not provide any additional details about the incident, saying the district will wait for police to complete their investigation before conducting its own probe.

Once the district begins its investigation, officials will look at the evidence and determine if the students will be punished and the severity of the disciplinary action, he said.

Disciplinary action can range from a 10-day suspension to expulsion, he said.

Valenzuela said he did not know where the coach was during the incident, but adults are usually nearby while students are in the locker room.

The probe is ongoing and police are conducting more interviews.

The three students named by police were honorable-mention All-Southern Arizona wrestlers as selected by the Star last year.

no TEAM sanctions

Chuck Schmidt, the associate executive director for the Arizona Interscholastic Association, said Thursday that Sahuarita's wrestling team will not face any disciplinary actions because it is a legal matter that the school and police are handling.

However, Schmidt said he would expect that any wrestler found to be involved would not be allowed to stay on the team.

The Mustangs can still compete in dual meets and tournaments, regardless of how many wrestlers remain on the team.

Daniel Gaona

Reporters Ryan Finley and Carmen Duarte contributed to this story. Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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