Fresno Unified’s internal investigation of a physical confrontation between trustee Terry Slatic and a Bullard High student offers a different narrative than what the trustee told GV Wire.
The report, which redacted the names of all witnesses except a Bullard resource officer and Slatic, was released Friday afternoon by the district in response to a Public Records Act request by GV Wire.
On Jan. 11, Slatic engaged in the incident with a student on the Bullard High School campus. Campus security cameras captured video, but not audio, which the district later released to the media.
Three days later, Slatic told this publication that the student made disrespectful comments toward himself, and his assistant, Michelle Asadoorian, as the two walked by. Slatic said he turned toward the student, who, the trustee said, made threats to shoot and kill him.
Slatic responded by grabbing the student’s backpack before the student ran off.
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office declined to press charges against either Slatic or the student.
Investigation Contradicts Slatic
The school district hired a private investigator to look into the claims. The inquiry started on Jan. 14 and concluded on Jan. 30.
“Mr. Slatic approached the student and grabbed his backpack as a result of the student’s disrespectful and profane comments to both him and (redacted). The student threatened to beat and shoot Mr. Slatic after Mr. Slatic engaged him physically by grabbing his backpack. The threatening words came as the two squared off with each other as if to fight, and not before Mr. Slatic grabbed the backpack,” wrote Jeffrey Pierce of OTP Investigations.
Slatic said Friday that the conclusions made in the report are wrong and that his version of events is “completely correct.”
Scope of the District’s Investigation
Pierce interviewed nine people in the course of the investigation, including Slatic and the student. The investigation also reviewed the security footage, a Fresno Police Department report, and Slatic’s statements in GV Wire’s original story.
The report notes that the primary fact at issue was at what point the student made the threats — before or after Slatic grabbed the backpack?
In Pierce’s narrative explaining how he came to his determination, he said that Asadoorian’s statements to the campus resource officer “does not contradict Mr. Slatic’s (statement), it also does not corroborate it.”
Asadoorian’s name is not mentioned in the report directly. Rather, it is redacted. However, her narrative and description in Pierce’s report line up with what Slatic told GV Wire, including her name.
Pierce also says the video “fails to corroborate some of Mr. Slatic’s statements” about the physical confrontation. The report states that the video shows the student walking away from Slatic after the trustee approached him.
The report also says the video evidence does not show the student reaching into his backpack, as Slatic told the school resource officer and GV Wire.
Pierce spoke with the student on Jan. 14, the Monday following the incident. The student was standing in front of the snack bar, when Slatic and Asadoorian, whom the student did not know, walked by.
According to the district’s report:
The student said he was joking and trying to be funny when he made a sarcastic remark.
Asadoorian turned and said, “Excuse me? What?” The student replied “nothing” and “none of your damn business.”
The report says Slatic then approached the student. The student, the report continues, told Slatic “leave me the f*** alone.” Then, the student said, “the man then got mad and grabbed the backpack.”
The student told Pierce he felt he would have to fight Slatic but he didn’t want to because the trustee was much bigger than him.
The report continued, “After they squared off, (the student) said he told the man, ‘I’m going to beat your ass and shoot you.’ (The student) said he did not have a weapon and was not really intending to shoot the man, but he was scared.”
At that point, the report states, Slatic responded, “Alright, let’s go. You sure you want to go?”
The student said yes, and Slatic also affirmatively replied. Asadoorian, according to the report, then “walked toward them and said “no … no”
That distraction allowed the student to grab his backpack and run away.
The student then left campus, and didn’t tell anybody about the incident because “I kind of forgot about it.” He told Pierce that he did not suffer any injuries.
When Slatic spoke with GV Wire for its story published Jan. 14, Slatic said he initially turned around after hearing the student’s disrespectful words to Asadoorian.
That is when the student made threats, and Slatic responded by grabbing the backpack.
When Pierce spoke with Slatic, the trustee “refused to answer any of my questions with respect to the incident itself other than to say, ‘Refer to my statement in SRO Gomez’ report.’ ” Daniel Gomez is the student resource officer. Slatic told Pierce to also refer to his statements in GV Wire as “accurate and (Slatic) stood by them.”
The report continues that Slatic and Asadoorian reported the incident immediately in the office. The exact names of whom Slatic spoke to are redacted. Slatic also spoke at that time to Gomez.
The report states, according to Gomez, Slatic grabbed the backpack because “I knew (the student) was going to leave and that his backpack would have his identification inside.”
After delivering summaries of interviews, and going over what is in agreement and in dispute in the incident, Pierce weighed in on the credibility of those involved.
“In my opinion, it is more plausible that the student would make the threat after he was engaged physically by Mr. Slatic than before,” Pierce wrote, emphasizing the word “after.”
Pierce also called Slatic’s version of events after he turned around to confront the student “less plausible than the student’s version.” He also took into consideration Slatic’s refusal to answer the investigator’s questions.
The investigator said that the student would not have a motive to lie, since he already admitted to making a threat, disrespectful language, and smoking marijuana.
Slatic’s Reaction to Report
On Friday, Slatic zeroed in on the student’s admission of smoking marijuana to the investigator.
“I am intrigued and curious about the student’s comments when he was interviewed days later,” Slatic said. “And also concerning the student’s comments about his excessive marijuana use impacting his memory of this event.
“My attorney, Chuck Manock, and I will publicly go over the video frame by frame to explain what happened at some point next week. We also will discuss other aspects of the district’s report at that time.”
Roger Bonakdar, the attorney for the student, said that the report bolsters his client’s account. When speaking with GV Wire, Bonakdar said he was poring through the report and had not read it fully.
“Slatic doubled down on his statements, which is demonstrably false,” Bonakdar said. “Now we know Michelle Asadoorian doesn’t support his accounts either.”
Bonakdar said he hasn’t ruled out suing the district.