Photo by Steve Carter/Gila Herald Special: While most fans were enjoying the high school football game between Thatcher and Pima, some minors were acting like thugs.
“They were bloodthirsty. There was no reason. They didn’t know her. It bothers me that children so young have so much anger.
Angela Larson – victim’s mother
By Jon Johnson
Thatcher – The mother of a 13-year-old girl who was brutally assaulted by three suspects at Thatcher High School football game on Friday night seeks answers while raising awareness of a potential bullying problem in the school district.
The victim suffered a ‘serious concussion’, according to his mother, Angela Larson, after being beaten by up to three girls at once in an unprovoked attack that happened at the stadium during the soccer game between Thatcher and Pima. Several witnesses watched the attack and videos were uploaded and shared on social media platforms, including the Snapchat app.
The Thatcher Police Department has identified the three suspects and they will be released to juvenile probation on Tuesday, according to Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods, with aggravated assault charges pending. With juvenile cases in Graham County, officers notify Juvenile Probation of the situation and it is up to Juvenile Probation to order the detention of suspects. In this case, possibly in part due to the holiday weekend, Juvenile Probation did not approve the detention of the suspects over the weekend.
“They were able to locate the suspects, and they got admissions and things like that, so charges are going to come,” Chief Woods said. “It’s (juvenile probation) the ones who made the decision not to detain and just write it as referrals and send it to them.”
Juvenile Probation will then review the referrals on Tuesday and submit them to the Graham County District Attorney’s Office for arraignment if necessary.
Graham County used to house its juveniles at the Eastern Arizona Regional Juvenile Detention Center (EARJDF), however, the facility closed in 2018 after 18 years of service due to the loss of federal contracts and budgetary problems. Around this time, the county began transporting juvenile delinquents to Florence in Pinal County for detention at a cost of $175 per day, not including transportation costs.
“My daughter was lying in a hospital bed and then home and couldn’t enjoy her weekend like she usually does because of all of this while these girls are still at large,” said Larson.
The videos are disturbing, with one showing the three suspects kicking the victim as she lies on the concrete sidewalk. Another video shows a suspect repeatedly slamming the victim’s head on the concrete while others watch. In both cases, none of the people watching the serious assault intervened to stop it.
“I just hope that as a community we could do better,” Woods said. “Anyone who has seen the videos – there is a little shock factor involved that people can act that way and treat people like that. It’s sad to me that these young children think this is appropriate behavior. This is not acceptable and as a community we need to do better.
The victim’s mother asked why the attack on her daughter could last so long in front of so many witnesses.
“No one stepped in to help him,” Larson said. “Nobody came to intervene, nobody went to get an adult, nobody went to get one of the (four) police officers on the spot… Nothing was done about it.
“All these people are there and stay there when no one is helping because people are scared. What’s wrong with our community and our world? It’s a small community. We’re meant to be Gila Valley Strong.
After the publication, another witness told the Gila Herald that high school girls from Pima intervened once they realized the assault was happening.
Larson responded to the scene and was with his daughter when she saw the videos. At that time, she took her daughter to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for treatment, and Thatcher Police followed her to the hospital.
Larson started a Justice for AUDI Facebook page, and talks about bullying and wondering how or why it would happen. She also shared some of the videos of her daughter’s assault on the page.
“I believe she was targeted because of her height and obviously those girls wanted to fight someone that night and they unfortunately chose her,” Larson said.
She also wonders if the Thatcher school district had enough security measures in place to ensure that this type of assault did not occur during a school activity.
Thatcher plays his football games at Eastern Arizona College’s John Mickelson Field. According to EAC Marketing and Public Relations Manager Kris McBride, the school “had to contract with the police and hire additional staff to provide security.”
While Thatcher’s officers were at the game, they were there as a courtesy while on town duty and were stationed on the north side in case they had to answer calls in town, according to Chief Woods. While Thatcher’s school district inquired about the possibility of having additional officers at the game, it did not contract with the department for any officers, and Woods said he informed the school that they would be there out of courtesy.
“They (Thatcher School District) always ask us to provide security and if we have (the) staff available, we absolutely will,” Chief Woods said. “Our jurisdiction is in the city (city), that’s why we always tell them ‘look, if we’re going to be there, we’ll help if we can, but if we have calls in the city, we’re going to leave and take our responsibilities.
Thatcher officers are often hired by the EAC for college events, and the college also has its own police force. However, no Thatcher officers were hired as security for the high school game and no EACPD officers were on the scene either, according to Chief Woods. Once a Thatcher officer was notified of the assault, the department took the call and investigated the case, ending with the suspects being sent to juvenile probation.
Larson also questioned why an ambulance was not immediately called for his daughter to the scene. She said she was there with the police and her daughter when she saw the videos and immediately took her to hospital after seeing them.
Chief Woods said an officer at the scene said he saw no injuries to the victim and the victim was on Snapchat. Woods said officers also did not see the videos of the beaten victim until her mother was present and were aware of the possible severity of the assault.
“There didn’t appear to be any need for medical attention, which is why an ambulance was not called at the time.”
Larson said the officers were not the ones to determine the severity of a potential injury and that EMS should have been contacted immediately. She also said the officer did not ask if her daughter had been injured.
“No one asked her if she needed medical attention,” Larson said. “No one asked her if she was injured. No one asked her if she needed anything. So, she ended up having a severe concussion. She has to go through this and it’s just not fair.
Larson said bullying is a problem throughout the Gila Valley, not just in the Thatcher school district.
“I think it happens in multiple schools all the time,” Larson said. “And I think because children are afraid of retaliation or children are afraid to say something – especially when it comes to these girls (the suspects). The reason why I speak my opinion for Audi and i want justice for it is that your children should not be afraid and as a parent you should not be afraid to stand up for your child and be afraid of retaliation and what is going to happen to your child when you send him to school. You must be your child’s voice and I will be his voice until the end until I feel that justice is served because it must pass over there.
“When will that be enough? There may not be a next time a parent has the chance to leave the hospital with their child and bring them home to watch them the whole Next time, a parent may be sitting next to their child’s bed in a hospital somewhere else and deciding whether they want their child to be an organ donor or not or take their child off life support because of the injuries. cerebral – because of serious injuries.
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