By Kathleen Stubbs
Montgomery County Police wrote in a news release Friday that they arrested and charged two more male Damascus High School students as suspects, in connection with an alleged sexual assault incident at the school, making the total number of suspects charged thus far five in all.
The two suspects arrested Friday, like the previous three, are under 18. One suspect received three charges of second-degree rape while the other suspect received one charge of attempted second-degree rape.
According to Montgomery County Police spokesperson Capt. Paul Starks, police arrested three male Damascus High School students Thursday night and charged each with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape.
“This event involves allegations – involves serious criminal allegations; that’s what our investigators are looking at,” Starks said.
Police said in a press release that the alleged incident occurred Wednesday.
Starks clarified that the assaults occurred “shortly after school dismissal.”
“The alleged behavior is upsetting and unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Damascus HS,” Principal Casey Crouse said in a letter to families Thursday afternoon.
Crouse said school administrators received information Thursday that members of the junior varsity football team had made allegations of hazing against their teammates, adding that the allegations did not involve members of the varsity football team.
Crouse announced that the school forfeited the junior varsity football game scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Jack Smith wrote a letter to MCPS staff informing them of the alleged incident on Saturday morning.
Smith asked that no one share rumors about the alleged incident, either on social media or by word of mouth, for two reasons.
“We encourage everyone to avoid spreading rumors online or in person,” Smith wrote in the letter obtained by the Montgomery County Sentinel. “Not only can these rumors be hurtful, but they can also be a distraction to the investigation.”
Smith also wrote that MCPS will speak to students next week to inform them about harassment, hazing and bullying, and to educate them how to report it in case they experience it or witness it.
Police continue to investigate the alleged crimes, which apparently occurred in a Damascus High School male locker room Wednesday, according to a news release.
“Investigators were able to interview victims as well as others who had information related to this event, were able to detain and speak with suspects, consulted with the state’s attorney’s office, and developed the charges they’ve been charged with” said Starks.
Investigators identified four boys under 18 as victims. The three suspects and all four alleged victims are Damascus High School students.
“Due to the tender ages of everyone involved, we’re closely guarding the details, facts and circumstances related to this criminal event,” Starks said.
Starks said the victims and suspects knew each other.
He said police have not confirmed whether the students involved were athletes.
Montgomery County Police encourage anyone with additional information related to the investigation to contact the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400.