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Second-grader arrested for assaulting staff, students

An Orchard Heights Elementary School second-grader was arrested for allegedly assaulting his school principal, assistant principal and several fellow students during recess Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Port Orchard Police Department incident report, Orchard Heights Principal Natalie Reed called police to report that an 8-year-old student had assaulted her, assistant principal Darek Grant and three students. She said the boy had been combative in the past, and she was concerned he would harm others if no law enforcement action was taken, School Resource Officer Bob MacFann wrote.

Reed said the incident began when a teacher reported seeing the student shove and punch three other students during recess. The teacher alerted Grant, who said he witnessed the student acting uncontrollably and making threats.

According to the report, when the principals tried to escort the student to the school office, he allegedly punched and kicked them. They ultimately needed assistance from the school custodian to carry the student into the office, Reed said.

When MacFann arrived on scene, he spoke with the school officials and the boy’s foster mother, whom MacFann said had several noticeable bruises on her arms.

“From my years of experience and training,” MacFann wrote, “the bruising had been caused by (repeated assaults).”

The foster mother said the boy had punched her in the arms on numerous occasions, and the most recent was on Wednesday, Feb. 26. She went on to say that the boy has a history of assaulting his siblings at home, and any attempts in the past to control his behavior just resulted in more assaults.

She said she did not discipline him because she was worried it might jeopardize her foster care license. She also said she had been advised by social workers that there was little she could do as far as disciplinary actions due to the boy’s age.

MacFann then spoke with the boy. He first asked him if he knew the difference between a truth and a lie, then asked if he knew if hitting, kicking, and punching other people was wrong, and if a person who did those things would get into trouble. The second-grader answered “yes” to all three questions.

MacFann then asked the boy what happened at recess earlier that day. The boy told the officer that he decided to punch the other students. When MacFann asked if the other students had threatened or harmed him, the boy said they hadn’t, and he just didn’t like them.

The boy then admitted to kicking the school officials, and said he punched his foster mother because he was mad at her for not doing what he wanted.

MacFann wrote that, based on his observations, investigation and concern for for the safety of others, he arrested the boy for alleged assault. He booked the 8-year-old into Kitsap County Juvenile Detention Center on five counts of fourth-degree assault, and one count of fourth-degree assault with a domestic violence enhancement.

According to Kitsap County Juvenile Division Deputy Prosecutor Todd Dowell, 8 years of age is the youngest a defendant can be and still be considered capable of a crime, according to Washington State laws.

“If you are 7 years old or younger, you are considered incapable of committing a crime,” Dowell said. “(It is believed) you can’t form the requisite intent.”

Defendants between the ages of 8 and 11, Dowell said, are presumed incapable and the state has the burden of proving capacity — that the defendant knew what they did was wrong.

“(That proof) can come in the form of testimony from the child, or from a parent or teacher, such as if they discussed with the child that it was wrong,” he said

After the age of 12, Dowell said, capacity is presumed.

Dowell explained that capacity — strictly a matter of age — is a separate issue from competency, which deals with a defendant’s sanity, or whether they are mentally able to understand what they did.

The boy will have a hearing March 17 in Kitsap County Juvenile Court to determine his capacity. In the meantime, Dowell said he was released back to the custody of his foster mother.

“She indicated she is willing to have him back,” he said. “But he has been ordered to have no contact with the other victims.”

When asked if the second-grader would be returning to Orchard Heights, Dowell said “I seriously doubt the school’s going to let him back in.”

If the suspect is found capable and then convicted of the crimes, he will face the same kind of sanctions as an older child, Dowell said.

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