Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mesa Firefighter Peripherally Involved In May 2nd Attack On LDS Youth In Gilbert, Arizona; No Hate Crimes Charges To Be Preferred Against Attackers

The continuing investigation into the May 2nd attack on two LDS teenage boys in Gilbert, Arizona, discussed in this previous post, has now revealed the involvement of a Mesa firefighter who got tanked up and drove the attackers to the park where the attack took place. Full story published May 24th, 2008 in the East Valley Tribune and in the Arizona Republic. And here's an earlier Tribune story for additional background.

Tim Rosales, a 26-year veteran of the Mesa Fire Department who lives in Gilbert, told officers that he had three beers before driving to the park. In addition, several teens involved in the fight also said they had been drinking at Rosales’ house before the attack.

The fight took place May 2nd at a park near McQueen and Elliot roads. Two boys, ages 15 and 16, were arrested — Rosales’ son, though involved, was not one of them. The fight left two other teens with bloody faces and golf-ball-sized welts, officers said. One boy suffered a broken collar bone. The injured boys were Mormon and the arrested teens had small swastikas carved into their wrists.

Police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime, but detectives later found the attack wasn’t originally motivated by the victims’ Mormon religion.

Rosales said he drove the teens to the park because one of the boys told him that his younger brother had been supposedly beaten up. “I’m a paramedic and if (the younger brother) was hurt, I could help him,” he told police.

The incident began when a group of young teens started firing a pellet gun at another group of teens playing with a Frisbee. The group playing with the Frisbee confronted the other group after a boy was hit in the head and asked them to stop. That’s when the two groups started arguing.

During the argument, one boy called his older brother, who rounded up three of his friends. Rosales then drove the boys to the park. The boys jumped out of the vehicle and began yelling at the other boys. When the victims tried running away, the teens ran them down and assaulted them. The younger brother was never harmed or touched and was responsible for shooting the pellet gun.

Rosales told police that he didn’t know that the boys were planning to fight. But in a later interview with another officer, Rosales said: “I know it’s not the old days but if somebody hurt somebody in your family you go repay him ... an eye-for-an-eye type of thing.”

Gilbert police did not arrest Rosales. But police officials said they considered charging him because his actions certainly contributed to the fight. “Unfortunately, poor judgment doesn’t always equal criminal acts,” Sgt. Mark Marino said. “After everything we’ve looked at, there wasn’t a specific law that he violated.” Marino added that it couldn’t be proved that Rosales provided alcohol to the minors. The two arrested teens, students at Mesquite High School, had alcohol in their system when they were picked up. Their blood-alcohol levels were .137 and .028, records show. They were booked on several counts of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and DUI.

Mesa fire officials could not be reached to see if they were planning their own investigation into Rosales’ conduct.

Back on May 8th, the parents of the two victims were interviewed by KNXV Channel 15 in Phoenix. This interview reveals why police have backed off the hate crimes charges. Here's a summary of the account of the incident as presented by KNXV.

There were junior high school-aged children playing in a pool with “Airsoft” pellet guns in the park. They were cursing and using profanity. The Mormon teenagers were playing Frisbee, and walked over to the pool to ask the kids to quiet down and clean up their language. The junior high kids responded by asking if the victims were Mormon; the victims said “yes”. At that point, the junior high-school aged children began to fire pellets at the Mormons, taunt them, and spoke Mormon slurs.

Shortly after this a truck pulled up with some high school-aged teenagers. Police believe one is the older brother of one of the younger kids in the pool and are investigating if he thought he was coming to the defense of his younger brother. However, the older kids who attacked the LDS kids made no derogatory references to Mormonism during the attack, which is why no hate crimes charges will be preferred against them.

My only concern now is why the parents of the victims fear "retribution" if their names are released. Could it be because the attackers are Hispanic?

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