Report of assault involving teens outside La Jolla Recreation Center prompts further community concern
Police and paramedics respond after witnesses say a boy was beaten by other youths. The incident happened days after a complaint of teens harassing younger children at the center.
A report of a boy being beaten by other middle school-age youths near the La Jolla Recreation Center on Feb. 3 led to police being called and residents expressing further concern after an earlier report of teens harassing younger children at the center.
Harrison Stoneham said he was at the Recreation Center on Feb. 3 for his child’s basketball practice and had his phone ready to record any suspicious activity, given the harassment reported previously.
Report of harassment by teens against younger kids draws attention of La Jolla Recreation Center group
A parent volunteer for her son’s basketball team of 5- to 7-year-olds says teenage boys have repeatedly ridden their bikes through the team’s practices while laughing, making rude gestures and taking basketballs away.
When he saw a group of about 20 young people enter the grounds, he started recording, he said.
“I didn’t think anything more of it because they left the Rec Center and went to the grass,” Stoneham said.
“But then I saw a scuffle … and I saw they threw a kid to the ground and were beating him up, so I started walking closer and started recording.”
The incident, which occurred on the Draper Avenue sidewalk adjacent to the center, was short-lived and the assailants quickly dispersed. It isn’t certain how many were involved in the assault and how many of the teens were onlookers.
Stoneham said he called 911 and stayed on the phone until paramedics arrived. He said the boy who was beaten complained of stomach pain and said he was punched on the head.
The incident came nine days after the La Jolla Community Recreation Group, an advisory panel that oversees the Rec Center, discussed a parent basketball coach’s complaint of harassment of her 5- to 7-year-old players by teenage boys, one of whom reportedly said he attends Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla.
It isn’t clear whether the teens involved in the Feb. 3 case also were involved in the harassment.
Stoneham gave a statement to police and sent an email to Muirlands Middle School Principal Jeff Luna.
“It’s so hard for me to rationalize this,” Stoneham said. “I wish it would stop. It’s heartbreaking. If it were my kid, I would be beside myself.”
Stoneham said he also was bothered by the reaction from Recreation Center staff.
“I asked the Rec Center staff for help and they said they would talk to them and never did,” he said. “They just kind of threw their hands up. Whether the Rec Center is safe is really a concern for me.”
Rec Center staff and the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department did not comment about the incident.
Following the harassment complaint, Parks & Rec Area Manager Rosalia Castruita said Jan. 25 that such behavior needed to be reported to Muirlands so the school could get involved or send an officer to the Rec Center.
Though Castruita said the center is concerned about the safety of all visitors, “the situation is a civil situation.”
“We really can’t control what’s happening,” she said. “We can’t stop fights. Our safety is also involved. That’s why we get [police] involved.”
San Diego police Lt. Bryan Brecht said detectives are still investigating the Feb. 3 incident and that “it would be premature to talk about the case at this time.”
Stoneham said some of the assailants have been identified based on the video he recorded and that an effort is underway to identify the rest.
“It’s heartbreaking. If it were my kid, I would be beside myself.”
— Harrison Stoneham
An employee in La Jolla’s Village who asked not to be identified said she saw young boys fighting earlier in the day on the corner of Pearl Street and Eads Avenue as she was driving. Though there was a group of about 15 in a circle, only two were fighting, she said. The youths appeared to be middle school-age but were not wearing school uniforms, she said.
Luna said he was made aware of the assault outside the Rec Center and is participating in the investigation. He said he was unable to confirm how many youths were involved or whether any or all are from Muirlands.
“We don’t have a whole lot of information yet,” he said.
Luna sent an email to Muirlands parents and community members Feb. 6 that stated he has “heard several versions of what took place.”
Another parent who was present the afternoon of the assault and spoke to the La Jolla Light on condition of anonymity said she and other parents are “on edge about the whole situation.”
She said she saw the group of young people near the basketball courts and heard a commotion, followed by the arrival of emergency personnel.
“There is enough adult presence there in the afternoons, and it’s not dark, but now there are safety issues,” she said. “It seemed like this whole group planned to be there at that time, so we’re really uneasy about going back.”
Luna’s email to parents said Muirlands is committed to safety and inclusivity, saying “bullying, hate speech, physical violence/fighting and expressions of racist or hateful acts of any kind are not, and will not, be tolerated at Muirlands and in our school community.”
He urged families to report any information about violent or hateful activity to the school.
“Our community must support one another and continue to be strong, united allies and upstanders for one another,” Luna wrote. “This commitment is essential to ensure a safe and welcoming school community.” ◆
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