By Jan Skutch
@ Savannah Now
Nine juveniles on Friday were ordered detained on charges stemming from what prosecutors contend was a gang-based attack on another student during a school bus ride home.
Chatham County Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Goldwire Colbert found sufficient evidence during day-long detention hearings to link each to the Feb. 21 attack on a 13-year-old female student in the back of the school bus.
Their next court appearances are scheduled for Wednesday when they will enter pleas to the charges. Each is charged with a total of 11 felony and misdemeanor offenses, at least some of which are designed felonies, reserved for the most serious juvenile offenders.
They range from simple assault to aggravated assault, participating in gang activity, inciting a riot, riot, and disrupting schools.
“This was a gang activity and it is a serious offense,” Assistant District Attorney Kin Rowden argued Friday.
“This whole case has just been a terrible case,” Colbert agreed.
A total of 17 people, including a 17-year-old, are being sought in connection with the case. Eight more remain outstanding.
The incident occurred Feb. 21 on a bus carrying students home from the Ombudsman Alternative Learning Program site on Brampton Road in Garden City.
Those are designed for students who have run afoul of disciplinary rules in other system schools. Most of those charged Friday have juvenile records.
Testimony Friday was that Savannah-Chatham schools Superintendent Thomas Lockamy has determined that each offender be permanently expelled from the system.
According to Board of Education police officer Brenda Johnson, a group of students exhibiting gang signs and related behavior beat the female, including ripping braids and causing a four-inch bald spot on the victim’s head.
A second student, a male, also was attacked in the same incident, but that case remains under investigation, Johnson said.
“We see it quite often in schools,” Johnson testified of gang activity. “It appears that in the video you see different westside gang signs being shown.” The 25-minute video, played in court, captured the entire incident, including prayers for the victims and chants prosecutors said are associated with gang conduct.
Johnson said that while she could not put her finger on who said what in the video, it showed what she called “known gang hand signs” and chants. “It very much appeared to me either a beat in or beat out” of the victim, she said.
In the video, the First Student bus driver attempted to stop the attack before finally notifying campus police of the fight and turned the bus back around to return to the Brampton Road site.
Only three students on the bus were not charged. At the end of the video, students are seen jumping through windows and out
the front and back doors to flee.
"I’m about to call campus police on your butts,” the driver tells the kids. “If you get out on the street, you’re on your own.”
Article Online: http://savannahnow.com/news/2013-03-01/nine-savannah-youths-ordered-held-gang-attack-school-bus