Evidence is questionable against a Virginia Beach seventh grader suspended for firing an airsoft gun.
During a hearing with a disciplinary committee Tuesday morning, Khalid Caraballo, Aidan Clark and a third friend were given long-term suspensions in a unanimous vote for possession, handling, and use of an airsoft gun. The Virginia Beach Public School System says the boys were punished for "shooting an airsoft gun at people near a school bus stop” on September 12.
In a letter sent to WAVY.com Monday, Larkspur Middle School Principal Matthew Delaney claimed “several students verified that they had been hit by pellets and had the marks to support their claims. In one instance, a child was only 10 feet from the bus stop and ran from the shots being fired but was still hit."
Solangel Caraballo expected to hear testimonies at Tuesday’s hearing from the “several students” Delaney mentioned, but said she was shocked when she got a discipline packet of information listing just one testimony against her son. The other testimonies were from the other two children suspended in the case.
The lone witness-victim’s testimony said he was standing ten feet from the bus stop when he realized he was going to get shot, dropped his bag and ran. He said the boys with the guns were standing on the Caraballo’s driveway 70 yards away. But Khalid argues he never shot anyone who wasn’t on his property.
"If we were in the driveway, then how could he be shot ... the airsoft gun doesn't shoot that far,” Khalid said.
Khalid also says that one alleged victim wasn’t a victim at all.
“Every single victim listed in that [packet] was in the yard and was involved in what was going on,” Khalid said.
Another witness – a woman who called Virginia Beach 911 during the incident on Sept. 12 – told Virginia Beach dispatchers she saw two boys running down the street with a gun chasing each other. They were not on private property. Virginia Beach Public Schools said it was that 911 call that led to Principal Delaney’s investigation that then to the suspensions.
The caller said, "The white child appeared to have a gun, and he was chasing the other child, who is black. When he saw me, he kind of stuck the gun in his pants. I don't know if it was a toy or if they were playing."
Here is why what that caller saw is so important: That caller is looking at 12-year-old Aidan Clark, who was suspended alongside Khalid. Clark admits he was chasing a third child, who also got suspended. The two children the caller saw were not Khalid.
Khalid has four statements supporting he never left his property: Aidan Clark’s statement, the third suspended friend’s statement, the 911 caller’s statement, and the witness-victim testimony presented as evidence at his disciplinary hearing.
So Khalid wants to know why is he was suspended. He wants to know why he is being sent to an alternative school when he has no accusers claiming he was shooting an airsoft gun at other students outside of his own private property.
Virginia Beach Public Schools administrators told WAVY.com, "more than one student was interviewed about being shot, but only one statement was included in the discipline packet."
The Caraballos would like to see all statements against Khalid and question whether those other statements actually exist.
“How was there more than one victim, people saying left and right they were hit? There is only one statement in there for a victim. [Mr. Delaney] said he called down multiple people. Then why aren’t they in there?” said Solangel Caraballo. "Bring me victims, because there aren't any.”
"That's the problem with rampant use of hearsay in these proceedings -- there is no way to test the evidence,” said attorney Kevin Martingayle, who often argues cases involving the Virginia Beach School Board. “So, this poor kid and his mother, they are stuck with a printed statement, and I don't know how you deal with that."
WAVY.com contacted Virginia Beach Public Schools Information Officer Jennifer McCarrell on Thursday. We asked for all the evidence involved in Principal Matthew Delaney's investigation into the incident.
"I am unable to assist you any further at my level with your latest series of requests,” McCarrell replied in an email.
WAVY.com has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get all the evidence in Khalid’s case. Count on WAVY to keep you updated.
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