The sexual assaults of four high school football players in Maryland last week were part of a hazing ritual at Damascus High School involving a broomstick, according to the accounts of suspects and victims detailed in a police report about the allegations.
The suspects, members of the junior varsity squad, attacked teammates in a locker room after turning off the lights, according to the report.
They pinned down two victims during the assault, according to the six-page incident report, which had not been made public but was obtained by The Washington Post. A 14-year-old boy could be heard screaming, then a 15-year-old boy cried and called out, "Stop, stop, stop," according to the report. Two other targets were allegedly forced to the ground but managed to fight off the attacks.
The alleged attacks took place last Wednesday, on Halloween, in a locker room after school was dismissed at Damascus High, a football powerhouse on the northern end of suburban Montgomery County.
The incident report, written by Detective Dana Williams of the Montgomery County Police Department, describes interviews with the reported victims, who said they previously had heard about broomstick attacks but were uncertain about whether the accounts were genuine.
One of the boys allegedly attacked "reported that when he was in middle school, he heard about 'brooming,' but thought that it was a myth," Williams wrote. Then the teenager was attacked, the report states, and he pleaded with teammates to stop, but they told him it was a "tradition."
"He thought the football team was supposed to be a family and look out for each other," the report states, summarizing the boy's views, "and did not think they could do something that horrible."
The police report states that one alleged attacker saw a victim crying after practice and went to him "to see if he was" all right. Later that night, other teammates texted the victim, saying they were sorry about what happened, detectives wrote.
Detectives said that another suspect alleged "the broom" was a practice that went back many years. Another said that the broom was kept in the locker room. A third suspect, describing one of the alleged assaults, spoke of players "giving him the broomstick."
He thought the football team was supposed to be a family and look out for each other and did not think they could do something that horrible.— From the police report on alleged hazing incident involving Damascus High School football players
The Post has been unable to reach family members of the accused. Their attorneys declined to discuss the case last week.
Montgomery County, Maryland, school officials have described the allegations at Damascus as horrendous and disturbing. They said Tuesday that they have not been told of any history or established ritual with a broomstick in the school's football program.
"Once police complete their work, we're going to look at every part of the football team and how it relates to the alleged incident and take all the appropriate steps we can take," said Derek Turner, a school system spokesman, who did not comment on the specifics of the police report.
The report, written Thursday, covers the alleged actions of three 15-year-old junior varsity players who are each charged with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape.
After the report, police charged two more teenage boys - one with three counts of second-degree rape and the other with one count of attempted second-degree rape. The specific allegations against that pair of boys could not be determined, and it was not clear whether they have attorneys.
All five youths are charged in the state's juvenile court system. Police said they have identified four victims, ages 14 and 15, according to the incident report.
While not as severe as the charge of first-degree rape, second-degree rape is a serious charge in Maryland, covering a range of nonconsensual acts that can involve the body or use of an object. Adults convicted of the crime face up to 20 years in prison. For juveniles, punishment could involve being placed in a facility - generally for six to nine months - or home detention with the teen electronically monitored or given an ankle monitor, according to Paul Zmuda, a Rockville, Maryland, defense lawyer and former prosecutor.
According to the incident report, detectives in Montgomery County's Special Victims Investigations Division were told about allegations "involving the junior varsity football team" on Thursday. By the end of the day, they had spoken with four team members who said they had been attacked and with three suspects they eventually charged with the rape and attempted-rape counts.
The first victim, according to the police, said he was in the locker room about 2:30 p.m. when the lights went off. He said two teammates pushed him to the ground, with one holding his feet while both laughed. The victim said he shouted, "Let me go!" according to the report.
Another victim told investigators that he was in the locker room, saw the first boy attacked and then heard the attackers say they were coming after him. They held him facedown over a bench and raped him with a broomstick for about 10 seconds, according to the incident report.
After practice, the boy told investigators, "he began to cry and had trouble breathing due to the incident," the report states. That was when one of his alleged attackers checked on him, according to the report.
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The third victim, interviewed by detectives, said four teammates approached him and threw him to the ground, with one trying to pull down his pants. A witness would later tell detectives that the attacker also punched and stomped the boy. The boy fended off the broom, police wrote, then went outside, crying.
The final victim, according to the report, said he saw two earlier attacks before he, too, was forced to the floor. As he was fending off the broomstick, this boy told detectives, "someone yelled 'Coach is coming!' and everyone ran away."
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy, whose office is prosecuting the case, declined to say specifically whether authorities are examining whether the assaults were part of a long-standing ritual at Damascus, as asserted by the junior varsity players in the police report.
"The investigation is continuing," McCarthy said. "We are working closely with the police to explore the alleged incident as well as other leads."
Turner, the schools spokesman, said schools officials have begun to look into whether there is a systemic problem with hazing across the school district, which is Maryland's largest and has 25 high schools.
They have asked high school coaches, athletic directors and extracurricular-activity sponsors to start discussions with students to learn more about their experiences and any problems. "We want to know if there is a climate and culture of bullying and hazing we need to address," Turner said. Montgomery Schools Superintendent Jack Smith released a video Monday night that was emailed to all high school students as a way to speak directly to them and convey the severity of the matter.
"Bullying, harassment, hazing, verbal and physical abuse, whether in classrooms, hallways and sports, or in any extracurricular activity, will not be tolerated in our schools," Smith said.