Did police act appropriately when questioning a Bullard High School student involved in a physical altercation with a Fresno Unified school board member?
The student’s attorney says no, but acting Fresno police chief Patrick Farmer says the department followed proper procedure.
“They interviewed (my client) twice without notifying the family first, which I am deeply troubled by.”— Attorney Roger Bonakdar
Fresno attorney Roger Bonakdar expressed concern about police investigators talking to his client. Bonakdar said police spoke with the student Jan. 14, three days after the incident involving trustee Terry Slatic.
“They interviewed (my client) twice without notifying the family first, which I am deeply troubled by,” Bonakdar said. “They pulled the kid out of class on Monday during his third-period class and took him by himself to a room and required him to give a statement to what I believe was the on-campus security officer, which is a police officer — a sworn officer.
“Then they took the child and moved into another room and had him interviewed by a district investigator shortly thereafter. Again, all by himself and without any notice or consent from the family, which I find troubling.”
Police Say Student Not Treated as a Suspect
Farmer provided a different perspective on the questions police posed to the student.
“It is my understanding that the student was listed an involved party and not interviewed as a suspect and therefore a Miranda warning would not be required,” Farmer said. “The student was advised he was free to leave.”
The Miranda warning requires law enforcement personnel to inform a suspect of his or her rights, including the right to remain silent.
Meanwhile, the Fresno County District Attorney’s office confirmed Tuesday that it had received the investigative report from Fresno police, and will now decide whether charges are warranted.
Surveillance video shows Slatic and the student engaging in a brief physical confrontation. Slatic grabbed the backpack off the student.
Slatic said he was on campus after school on Jan. 11 with his assistant, to view a snack program. As Slatic and Michelle Asadoorian passed the student, he allegedly directed profanities at them.
When Slatic turned around to reprimand the student, according to his account to GV Wire, the student then made threats to kill and shoot them. That is when Slatic grabbed the backpack and placed it on the ground. The student subsequently picked up the backpack and ran away.
Bonakdar disputed Slatic’s account, saying his client never said anything to warrant a physical response by Slatic.
Slatic said Tuesday that he stands by his account of the incident.