Monday, November 3, 2014

Religion Today: Amarillo, Texas middle school student arrested for wearing rosary at football game


Amarillo Police Department and Amarillo ISD say rosaries could be a possible sign of gang association

Jacob Herrera, a 14-year-old Amarillo, Texas middle school student, was attending a school football game when he was arrested this past Wednesday night. Herrera claims he was arrested after he refused to remove a rosary that he wears in memory of his brother.

The Amarillo Police Department and Amarillo ISD say that rosaries could be a possible sign of gang association and students are asked not wear or display the religious symbol while on school property. This requirement also applies to all school functions.

“My son passed away two years ago, in 2012 and he was teaching Jacob, you know about god and how you know, he should wear the rosary to protect him, so Jacob believes that rosary protects him and it’s in of his remembrance brother,

“I just want justice for my son and for them to let him go,” Herrera’s mother, Lori Martinez, said.

The Amarillo Police Department issued a statement saying that Herrera was taken into custody after the student refused to comply with the rules and resisted arrest. Herrera was also charged with trespassing.

“He was fighting with the officer, he wouldn’t comply with the commands, he wouldn’t put his arms behind his back.

“The officer used a couple of different compliance holds to try and get him to put his hands behind his back, he did not deploy his taser, he just tried to get him under control they rolled around on the ground for several minutes.

“We are not indicating that this is the case in this particular incident but that sometimes our youth are using rosary beads as a sign of gang affiliation or some gang apparel again we are not saying that’s what it is, but we have seen it with others here in the United States,” APD spokesperson Cpl Jerry Neufeld said.

The APD also released the following information about the incident:

“A witness stated: “I’m amazed that you have to put up with this behavior.” to the officer.

“School officials & the Amarillo Police Officer asked the teen to remove the rosary, hide it, or leave school property. Rosary beads have been concluded by national authorities and media to have gang affiliation roots.

“The youth then began to use abusive language. The officer who was talking to him at the time (who happens to be Catholic) asked the teen “what are these beads for”, knowing that the beads are used for prayers. The youth replied: “What do you mean”. This showed the officer that they were not being worn for religious purposes.

“School officials repeatedly asked and told him to leave the property. The officer warned that he would have to arrest him if he did not leave the property. The teen refused to leave property. After multiple warnings, the officer went to cuff the young man. At this point he began flailing, struggling, and they went to the ground.

“The abusive language continued and the teen even spouted racist remarks against African American officer. 

The teen kept trying to break free and run. He was finally cuffed and the officer held him down until a field unit could arrive and transport him for booking.

“The youth was booked on a criminal trespass charge & resisting arrest.”

The Amarillo ISD released a brief statement about the incident.

“Last night at one of our schools, a student was identified as being in violation of the dress code for wearing an item in a manner which is considered to be gang related by local and national law enforcement.

“A school administrator and liaison officer asked the student to either comply with the dress code rules or leave school property.

“The student repeatedly refused to comply with either option. At that time, the student was arrested for trespassing,” the AISD said.

There are currently no rules specifically against wearing rosaries in the Amarillo ISD dress code guidelines. 

However, the guidelines due state that students are not allowed to wear anything that law enforcement agencies or school officials might deem as gang related apparel.

Herrera continues to be held at the Youth Center of High Plains.


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