Students contacted by The Epitaph confirmed yesterday that the 17-year-old junior arrested and booked into juvenile hall Monday was a member of the FHS water polo team and frequently quarreled with teammates.
The arrested student allegedly created an Instagram account with the handle “Jewslayer88,” tagged multiple FHS and HHS students in anti-Semitic photographs and sent them threatening direct messages.
He was arrested and charged with “criminal threat” under California Penal Code section 422 on Sep. 5, records from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (SDPS) confirmed. The charge is defined by California legislature as willfully threatening to unlawfully kill or unlawfully cause great bodily injury to another.
The head investigator on the case is Elizabeth Digiovanna of SDPS. Digiovanna said she could not confirm details about the investigation but stated that an investigation is ongoing at FHS.
Sources from the water polo team said the alleged offender was a repeated target of jokes and ridicules while on the team last year and this year.
“I heard when information first started coming out … that there may be some bullying involved,” FHS principal Bryan Emmert said. Emmert would not comment, however, on whether the suspect was a member of the water polo team. FHS water polo coach Mike Fleming and FHS athletic director Moris Clark also declined to comment.
Several current members of the FHS water polo team who were contacted by The Epitaphsaid Fleming instructed the team not to speak to reporters. They have chosen to remain anonymous. Fleming did not respond to this allegation when The Epitaph reached out to him a second time.
The arrested student was on the JV water polo team last year where he was the target of verbal and sometimes physical altercations with Jewish students on the team, a former teammate of the student said.
Ofir Bekker, a member of last year’s FHS water polo team who has since graduated said the arrested student and the rest of the water polo team “joked around with each other.”
“Every team does that,” Bekker said. “There was always … back and forth. Someone would either say something to [the arrested student] and he would say something back or comment on water polo skills or say ‘you suck’ and it would always go back and forth.”
Becker also said he thought the arrested student was jealous of the good players, which happened to be mostly Jewish.
“The water polo team at Fremont has been dominated by Jews for the last four years,” Bekker said. “It’s a fact … I would see how that would annoy someone. It is very unfortunate that most of those players were Jewish which made them easy targets. It upsets me that someone could be annoyed if a group of the best players on any team share the same race regardless of what it is,” he said.
One of the former team captains said he remains skeptical as to whether the atmosphere on the water polo team was a motive for the arrested student’s actions.
An incident was “bound to happen at some point,” the former captain said. “It might have been instigated a bit faster because he was being put down on water polo, but [being teased on the team is] something that happens to everybody. It even happened to me, and I was the captain. It’s nothing over the top.”
Current water polo players said the arrested student was an outcast on the team.
“[He] isn’t the best partner you could have,” a current player said. “He never listens to you. You can’t run plays with him. You can’t practice with him because he never listens. He’s so focused on himself when he plays a team sport.”
Another player said he believed the incident had nothing to do with the student’s participation on the team.
“I’ve seen [altercations with other teammates] in the locker room and stuff,” a current player said. “Let me reiterate, it’s not that this kid was bullied. He was always a social outcast.”
The arrested student made anti-Semitic jokes in the past, FHS junior Evan Yap said.
“[He] has a lack of respect for serious things,” Yap, who was frequently around the arrested student and the student’s group of friends at lunch said. “I’ve heard a lot of conversations [about him] … talking about school shootings and how they were funny … he’s not the most pure-hearted student.”
The arrested student’s father attended Thursday’s FHS water polo game against Harker, a student said.
“You can tell that [the student’s father] was very, very upset, like unstable, and he feels very badly about this,” a former player said. “The [other] parents acknowledged that he came, and they’re thankful.”
The incident is still being investigated by the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. The suspect will be held in Juvenile Hall until Sep. 23 when he is due in court, Captain Shawn Ahearn of SDPS said.
While it is still unclear why students from HHS were tagged in some of the photos the suspect posted, several schools in the district, including HHS and FHS are in the process of scheduling a town hall meeting to address the situation, Emmert said.
Since the suspect is a minor, it is the policy of The Epitaph to withhold the name of the juvenile. Several current members of the FHS water polo team requested to remain anonymous.