Chavez draws third charge
May 17, 2007
A third misdemeanor has been added to charges against an 18-year-old student accused of starting a fight last week at Douglas High School that resulted in injuries when a student and adult fell into a glass trophy case.
Daniel Chavez of Indian Hills has been charged with provoking the commission of a breach of peace by using gang colors, gestures or taunts to start a fight May 10 with a 16-year-old student.
Three juveniles also were arrested after the fight which was broken up by staff and Douglas County sheriff’s officers who were summoned to the Minden school.
All four students have been suspended pending disciplinary action.
Chavez also was charged with affray and disturbance of a school.
He appeared in court Wednesday with a Spanish-speaking interpreter and East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl continued his arraignment to May 23.
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“You go to school there? You take classes? Why do you need an interpreter?” EnEarl asked the defendant.
Chavez said he had difficulty reading and speaking English.
He started to explain his side of what happened at the fight, but EnEarl stopped him and appointed lawyer Tod Young to represent him.
Assistant District Attorney Mike McCormick asked EnEarl to place Chavez on house arrest.
“We absolutely, absolutely believe this is all gang-related. He has been booted out of the high school and we want to make sure he’s not out creating more disturbances in this community,” McCormick said.
Chavez told the judge he lives in Indian Hills with his aunt. He said he has been a student at Douglas for two years and before that lived at South Lake Tahoe with his mother.
He admitted smoking marijuana a month ago, but denied using methamphetamine. He tested negative Wednesday for drugs.
EnEarl placed Chavez under the supervision of the adult probation department and ordered him to stay away from the high school and the co-defendants in the fight.
According to court documents, Chavez and a 16-year-old student began fighting in a hallway. Dean of Students Jeff Evans and special education aide Larry Minihan broke up the fight and were escorting the two to the office.
A 15-year-old student was following the apprehended students to the office when a 16-year-old came out of the crowd and blind-sided the 15-year-old with a closed fist punch.
Those two started fighting and Coach Mike Rippee grabbed the 15-year-old. Rippee and the student crashed into the school’s trophy display case shattering the glass.
The student suffered lacerations on top of his head near his forehead, both wrists and forearms.
According to deputies’ reports, three of the four admitted belonging to rival gangs and said the fight was precipitated by a racial slur.
The fourth student said he didn’t belong to a gang but wanted to help his friend, according to documents.
Principal Marty Swisher said Thursday disciplinary action would be taken against the four students.
“We finalized our investigation with all four young men who were involved,” he said.
Swisher said he cannot disclose what action was taken, but the four students are no longer at the school.
Assistant Principal Tom Morgan said last week a student who initiates a fight faces a five-day suspension for the first offense. On a second infraction, the student may be recommended for expulsion which is determined by the school board.
District Attorney Mark Jackson said Wednesday the third misdemeanor was filed against Chavez after investigators talked with staff and students who witnessed the fight.
“Our information indicated there was flashing of gang signs and gang colors that led up to the incident,” Jackson said.
He said petitions alleging delinquency would be filed against the juveniles.
“We’re handling this with an abundance of caution,” Jackson said. “We’re making certain decisions to protect our children. As far as their public safety, it’s paramount to anything else.”
The fight was followed Friday by a lockdown at the high school after a deputy was informed by e-mail that someone might be bringing a gun on campus.
There was no threat and the lockdown was lifted after an hour.
On Monday, Swisher said 400 of the school’s 1,400 students were absent. He said the average number for a Monday is 120.
“There was a lot of concern based on the lockdown from Friday,” Swisher said. “Even to this point we haven’t had any credible information about any issues with weapons or continued fighting or anything like that.”
By Tuesday, attendance was back to normal.
“Obviously, we’re still being very attentive and listening to any information students and parents are giving us,” Swisher said.
Swisher said he believed last week’s fight stemmed from three of the four students not getting along and the fourth student jumping in.
“It was more about something between the three young men than it was anything else,” he said. “They haven’t gotten along and that was the day they chose to do something about it.”
Swisher said Secret Witness numbers have been posted throughout the campus and that building respect would be emphasized at the school.
“We want to certainly respect everyone,” he said.
For now, the focus is on returning to normal.
“The students have been fantastic. I think our school and community learned a lot from this particular experience, but it’s time to move on,” he said.