Shaker Heights Police Department Chief Scott Lee told The Shakerite Friday that both the suspect and victim involved in the Sept. 10 alleged rape at the high school are 15 years old.
This assertion contradicts reports by local TV news stations that either the suspect or both the suspect and the victim are 16. The age of consent in Ohio is 16.
Lee admitted that the police department did not inform the school district that the suspect was initially charged with rape before high school Principal Michael Griffith sent out an email to parents calling the incident “an allegation of assault.” However, Lee said his department should not be blamed for the district’s lack of information. Lee referenced the incident report, the only publicly available document about the Incident. The Shakerite obtained the report, which classified the incident as “rape,” Wednesday.
“If you look at the public comments, [which is] the narrative on the back [of the police report]. . . when you read it, there’s nothing in there about a rape. It says we responded there for an assault,” Lee said. “At the time that they [the district] asked the questions, the individual wasn’t officially charged. He has [now] been officially charged, and charged with rape. But that determination is not made by the police department. We send the facts down to the county prosecutor, and it doesn’t happen instantaneously.”
Lee said the police department is “not obligated to advise the school what we’ve charged an individual with. We meet with the school every two weeks and we talk about things that affect both the schools and the police department. And during those meetings we will sometimes share that information.”
“Nobody’s responsible for notifying the district. There’s no responsibility, there’s no obligation for the police department or even the county prosecutor to notify the district what the appropriate charge is,” Lee said.
In emails Wednesday and Thursday nights, after The Shakerite published that the incident report classified the incident as an alleged rape, Griffith and Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. started using the words “sexual assault.”
Hutchings didn’t want to assign blame either. “You have to think that a lot of things unraveled very quickly, and we were working hard to get information out to parents and the community in a timely manner,” Hutchings said. “If we sat around and waited for people to get back to us and call each other back and forth, we would never get information out in a timely manner. I wouldn’t say it was a negative thing on their part.”
But Lee maintained that communication between police and the district has been strong, especially because this is Hutchings’ first year on the job. “I would say yeah, this incident we’ve communicated a lot more with the district,” Lee said. “You’ve also gotta remember that you’ve got a new superintendent over there, who is kind of starting to meet new people and he’s starting to get accustomed to the ways things are, so it’s important for him to have maybe more communication than say an older superintendent who is familiar with the system and the police department and what goes on.”
Hutchings said he spoke with Chief Lee several times this week and that meeting every other week is still sufficiently frequent.
Lee said “there’s no indication” the suspect resisted arrest or had a weapon on his person.
Lee declined to comment on the hour-long time delay that occurred between when the district estimated staff members found out about the incident and when police were called. “I wouldn’t want to talk about things that might impede or create a problem with our investigation,” Lee said.
However, Lee did say, “I don’t believe this came in as a 9-1-1 call.” Because it was not a 9-1-1 call, Lee said he believed the call was not recorded.
Lee also refused to answer questions about where in the school the alleged rape occurred, where in the school the suspect was arrested, whether surveillance cameras picked up anything useful to the investigation, how many students told staff members about the incident, which staff member called the police, how many officers responded, and the relationship between the two students, saying that only the prosecutor can choose to release that information once the investigation is complete.
Asked when that might be, Lee said, “It just depends. It depends on all the facts, when we can get to our victim, when any of the evidence that’s collected and analyzed by the state is returned to us. There’s a whole host of factors and variables that go in. We don’t put a timeline on our investigations.”
Shaker Heights Chief Prosecutor Randolph Keller said no county prosecutor has yet been assigned. “That might not happen for a while. As to what assistant will be assigned the case, that could take a little while,” Keller said. Pressed further for a time estimate, Keller said, “Don’t know exactly, but a while. It’s not going to be within the next day or two.”
“I’m involved in every single felony that’s committed in the city of Shaker Heights. I have original jurisdiction over all of them. There comes a point in time when that jurisdiction is relinquished to the county,” Keller said.
“I have already done my part. We’re kind of in the transitional phase, if you will, to the county prosecutor’s office beginning to handle it,” Keller said. However, he added that “I may still have some an involvement in an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Lee said that after being arrested at the high school, the suspect was taken to Shaker police headquarters. “He would have been processed here and then he would have been transported [to the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center] after the prosecutor downtown felt that the charges were appropriate and OK’d us to bring him down there, which I would assume would have been that same day. We don’t usually keep juveniles for any longer than six hours,” Lee said.
After the initial charge of rape, Lee said, “It’s going to be up to the prosecutor at the county level to determine whether that charge is appropriate, based on all the facts and circumstances.”
Lee would not specify which detective is leading the investigation and said that the number of officers assigned to the investigation varies daily.
Speaking broadly about cooperation between Shaker police and the county prosecutor’s office, Lee said, “We’ll file cases with the county prosecutors, the county prosecutors then review those cases to determine charges, and if the cases go on to trial, then our detectives would be witnesses. They’d basically testify in court about their investigation and the circumstances.”
“We don’t spend a lot of time in trial downtown, because a lot of times, again we don’t have a lot of high-profile crime. But at the same time, most of the cases we send down there are good cases.”
Asked whether the public would eventually find out the name of the suspect, Lee said, “Typically the county does not release names of minors.”
The Shakerite does not publish the names of minors involved in criminal cases.
“This is an unfortunate incident. The school is working closely with the police department regarding our investigation and we’ll continue to work closely together, as we always do, throughout the year,” Lee said. “And I think like anything else, both students and staff, when they see something or hear something that they don’t think is right, or suspicious, or out of sorts, they need to notify somebody, and they need to let staff know. . . I’m not talking about this case in specifics, but just in general.”