Charges in bus assault hinge on victim's condition
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:04 AM
"The 14-year-old boy accused of attacking fellow student Jeremy Crumley aboard a South Kitsap school bus en route to Cedar Heights Junior High School on May 18 was scheduled to face misdemeanor or felony charges Friday in Kitsap County Juvenile Court.According to Kitsap County deputy prosecutor Jennifer Irvine, the severity of the charges depends on the ultimate health of Crumley, who, as of Thursday, was listed in satisfactory condition at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma. Hospital officials, however, said it could be weeks before they know the extent, if any, of damage to Crumley's brain as a result of the incident.The type of charges drawn in court also hinge on the results of a Kitsap County Sheriff's investigation, which has mainly consisted of the eyewitness accounts of about 20 students aboard the bus, including Crumley's younger brother.But Sheriff's investigators ably interviewed Crumley at the hospital Thursday, said Det. Mike Davis, who is also a South Kitsap School Board member.He said nothing happened to him on his way home from the bus, Davis said. He didn't fall or hit his head. He just remembers collapsing in the backyard of his home.Davis said Crumley's doctors also indicated that the type of head injury he suffered could increase in severity over time.This is a message to kids everywhere...that a simple fight between two (kids) can turn into something like this, Davis said. Prosecutors, who as of Thursday afternoon hadn't reviewed the results of the investigation, also hope the deputies' efforts help clear up whether the suspect punched or strangled Crumley. Initial, sketchy reports indicated Crumley was punched three times in the face and grabbed into a headlock, yet doctors reported Crumley's injuries as consistent with being choked for several minutes.Irvine said if prosecutors can potentially prove the supsect choked Crumley, he will be charged with a felony.The injuries Crumley sustained aren't consistent with what apparently happened on that bus, said Lt. Jim Harris, a detective with the Kitsap Sheriff's Office.Davis noted that point is the most perplexing aspect of the case.South Kitsap School District Spokeswoman Patti Holmgren wouldn't confirm or deny whether the suspect was suspended from school following the 7:30 a.m. fracas because of laws protecting student confidentiality. Deputies later took the suspect into custody. Meanwhile, Crumley's parents arrived home later that morning from a trip to the airport to find their eldest son vomiting and babbling in the backyard. Somehow, Crumley got off the bus after the fight, which is contrary to district policy, and walked a half-mile home. Sometime after 9 a.m., he was airlifted to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital with brain injuries.The young suspect, who doesn't have a past criminal record, was released from jail May 19 to his parents. Prosecutors say it's unlikely the 14-year-old will be tried as an adult.At the time of his admission to Mary Bridge, doctors said Crumley's brain injuries suggested he had been strangled for three to four minutes. Yet that isn't what reportedly happened on that bus at 7:30 a.m., May 18.Crumley jumped on the bus, en route to Cedar Heights Junior High School while their parents drove relatives to the airport. Crumley attempted to sit down next to a female student, who sat close to the aisle. She apparently wouldn't budge, so Crumley pushed her toward the window, witnesses said.The sad thing is, the seats on that bus were half empty, Harris said. It isn't known why Crumley apparently wanted to sit there.Harris said the suspect, who was sitting behind the girl, took offense to Crumley's behavior and pushed him in retaliation.Crumley reportedly told the boy to not push him, but the suspect did it again anyway. So Crumley threw the first punch and hit the suspect, said Davis. That's when the suspect pummeled Crumley in the face three times and grabbed him in a headlock, or chokehold.It all happened very quickly, investigators say.Within moments, authorities say the bus driver broke up the confrontation and radioed bus dispatch personnel, who, in turn, called administrators at Cedar Heights Junior High School. District officials say the bus driver exactly followed written procedure.Administrators planned to meet the boys off the bus when they got to school shortly before 8 a.m. But only the suspect disembarked. Somehow, Crumley got off the bus early. School officials say there wasn't a camera aboard the bus because that route hadn't previously shown signs of needing one.Authorities said the boy elbowed his way off the bus at the very next stop, and walked a half-mile home. Witnesses said Crumley appeared fine, he walked normally, without weaving, and only a faint redness appeared around an eye.Yet a little more than an hour later, Crumley's parents found their boy in their backyard, vomiting.They want to know why.At this time, the Crumley family said they won't talk to the media, but Crumley's mother did say they're going to work on getting their boy better. The family has already hired a lawyer. Meanwhile, Crumley's prognosis has improved over the last week, and investigators Thursday planned on speaking with him and other family members about the incident.Initially, the boy was put on life-support and pumped full of coma-inducing drugs. Now, he is reportedly in satisfactory condition and said I love you to his parents Tuesday. According to a hospital spokesman, Crumley is reacting to motion and conversation in the room as it's happening, as if his brain is rewiring itself around the injury."