Authorities on Monday arrested two 16-year-old boys in connection with a racially charged death threat video sent to one of their classmates at Central Catholic High School.
The boys were arrested following searches of their homes in Patterson and east of Modesto. They were booked into Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of felony charges of committing a hate crime, making terrorist threats and criminal conspiracy, said Modesto police Capt. Brian Findlen.
The 12-second video sent via Snapchat features a white Central Catholic High student with a prop hangman’s noose around his neck saying, “You must die (expletive),” and laughs. Then a second boy says the name of Noah Porter, an African American schoolmate, and the scene cuts to a handgun being fired.
Porter, 18, agreed to allow The Bee to use his name.
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Findlen would not release the boys’ names or say what part each took in making the video but said, “We have identified the male juvenile in the video and we believe that the other male that was arrested was involved in production or distribution of the video.”
“There are no winners in this. An act of ignorance has forever changed a young man’s life,” said attorney Jacq Wilson, speaking in his role as spokesman for the African American student who was targeted.
“By the Modesto Police Department taking swift action to hold the wrongdoers accountable, it sends a message that hate crimes and death threats will not be tolerated in this community. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, young or old, if you commit a crime in Modesto you will be held accountable,” Wilson said Monday.
Porter’s mother released a statement Monday through Wilson.
“I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers, the community support, and all those parents of students who have been victims of hate crimes and bullying that have reached out to me,” said Tanya Porter.
The first arrest was made Monday morning during a search of one of the boy’s homes on South Del Puerto Avenue in Patterson. The other boy was arrested several hours later after his home on North Hopper Road was searched. A third home on Highway 132 in La Grange also was searched; Findlen would not say how the home was connected to the investigation.
Findlen said a firearm was recovered during the searches, but he would not say at which location or whether it was the gun used in the video. He said other evidence was collected but would not elaborate.
“We are still investigating where the video was taken, but we are working from the perspective that the video was produced at one of the homes that was searched,” he said.
African American families at the school have felt threatened since the video appeared, fearing the teens’ access to firearms and upset at the slow response of the school, said Wilson, co-founder of the Modesto mentoring group Advocates for Justice.
The video was posted March 25 as the private school recessed for Easter break. The boys who made it returned to school when classes resumed. On Thursday, CCHS President Jim Pecchenino said the students involved were suspended and no longer on the campus.
But incidents at the school since have left parents uneasy, believing the campus has not taken the hate crime seriously, Wilson said. Advocates for Justice held a meeting Friday to air concerns and rally support for a 10-point plan presented to the school asking for reforms.
Among them were training for staff members and students to recognize hate crimes, bullying and cultural insensitivity, and updates to the school’s policies to address bullying, cyberbullying and hate crimes.