More charges possible in NJ high school’s racial urinating incident
LAWRENCE (Mercer) — The investigation continues after two 17-year-old high school students were arrested Saturday and charged with ridiculing, insulting and mocking several black middle school students in the bleachers during a football game Friday night.
The two unidentified high school boys, who police said were of Indian descent, were taken into custody and face multiple charges of bias intimidation and harassment for making derogatory comments and using a black slur. One of the suspects has also been charged with lewdness for allegedly urinating on one or more female victims.
Police Lt. Joseph Lech said several victim interviews have been conducted and two videos showing part of the incident have been reviewed but the investigation is ongoing and “we encourage anyone with any information to contact the Lawrence Township police department directly and report the information immediately.”
“We are still taking statements from potential witnesses, possible potential victims, and there is also potential for additional criminal charges to be filed against other suspects at a later time.”
Police Chief Brian Caloiaro insisted no one reported any type of bias incident during or immediately after the football game Friday night. He said police only became aware of it after learning Saturday morning about a Facebook post made by a mother of one of the victims, and an investigation was quickly launched in conjunction with the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.
Ross Kasun, the township superintendent of schools, said everyone is upset and disappointed by the behavior of the alleged offenders and the way it’s being portrayed by some members of the media.
“Our school district values all students and every single member of our community. Intolerant behavior has no place in our schools or our community," Kasun said, adding this was "an isolated incident and not who we are as a school district.”
He added students have said “they want to do something” to let everyone know they are “above and beyond this”, and faculty members and staff have been meeting to discuss different ways to use the incident as a teaching moment to learn and grow.
Kasun said the demographic breakdown of the high school is about 40% white, 20% black, 20% Hispanic and 20% Asian-Indian.
Mayor Christopher Bobbitt said hate has no home in the township.
“Bigotry is a cancer and unfortunately much like cancer, even if it’s gone into remission, it’s still there, and when it pops up we need to take appropriate action.”
He said many in the community were asking for “vengeance” and wanted those responsible to be publicly identified but he believes his job is to “remind people of the commonalities and the good. I know that’s difficult at this point but I think one of the things we need to do as a community is rise up.”
When Kasun was asked about what punishment is being considered for the two suspects, he said discussions have been ongoing but nothing has been decided yet because the investigation is still taking place.
The suspects were released to the custody of their parents, pending an appearance in Family Court at a later date. Because the teens are underage, court proceedings will be closed to the public.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com