Police arrest fifth student ties to attacks
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 9:26 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 9:26 a.m.
A fifth Bradford High School teen was arrested Monday in connection with a string of assaults on a 14-year-old girl, and authorities are offering $500 for information about another attacker.
The Bradford County Sheriff's Office said the latest person arrested, a 17-year-old girl, was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony retaliation for an assault in the high school's girls' bathroom. School Resource Deputy Chuck Johnson arrested the sophomore Monday after the victim identified her.
The attacks stem from an initial September assault on the 14-year-old girl, in which two boys, ages 14 and 15, groped the girl during school, police said. The girl reported the attack, and the boys were suspended from school and charged with battery. They're scheduled for expulsion hearings before the Bradford County School Board.
Later that month, two girls claiming to be the boys' girlfriends cornered the victim and threatened to retaliate, police said. They were suspended and charged with felony retaliation. One of the girls additionally was charged with tampering with evidence.
Despite the four suspensions, the attacks didn't stop. On Sept. 28, the same victim was attacked in the girls' bathroom and sustained injuries. The assault remains under investigation, and the Sheriff's Office is offering $500 for information leading to the attacker's arrest.
A final attack took place on Friday, when the victim was again assaulted. She was found injured in the girls' bathroom and taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released. Police said the 17-year-old who attacked her was suspended from school and turned over to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The Sheriff's Office was at the school Monday to question students about the attacks, and deputies are continuing to investigate.
The Starke Police Department also went to the school Monday to begin discussions about increasing security measures.
"We want a more visible police presence in the area of the school," Police Chief Gordon Smith said.
On the school district's part, Assistant Superintendent Rick Ezzell said teachers have been alerted to watch students in the hallways between class periods and to require anyone who leaves their classrooms to get written permission first.
"I want to emphasize this is not gang-related. This is a personal grudge of just a few people," he said. "We're certainly not happy with what's happened, but we're working very closely with law enforcement and we've got our staff involved."
Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner said he expects to make an arrest in the remaining unsolved assault.
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