An alleged “senior prank” between cross-town North Texas high school rivals ended with five teenagers in jail. The students face felony charges for vandalism and defacing school property with vulgar graffiti.
Police arrested the five students earlier this week for spray painting graffiti described by Arlington Police Lt. Chris Cook as containing “several disturbing racial and gender overtones.” The attack was on several buildings at James Martin High School in Arlington, a Dallas suburb.
According to the arrest affidavits, “trans only” was spray painted on a men’s bathroom door and “whites only” above an outside water fountain. The likeness of male genitalia was also spray painted on the campus, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The students were identified as Christian Joeckel, Ryan Westbrook, Hayden Honolka, Cameron Bodenstab, and Ethan Sigmund. Bodenstab and Sigmund are 18-years-old while the other three teenagers are 17-years-old. They attend Arlington High, a rival school.
By Friday, four of the suspects remained in the Arlington jail where bail was set at $2,500 each. Authorities released Westbrook, the fifth student, after he posted bond. He told a police investigator that he helped paint a jungle gym green but did not paint any graffiti, according to police documents.
Each student faces a felony graffiti charge. Under Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 28, graffiti is a serious type of criminal mischief and is classified as a state jail felony when it takes place at a school, house of worship, cemetery, public monument, or community center property.
As a felony, a graffiti charge carries stiff penalties — 180 days to two years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than $10,000, according to the state’s penal code punishments in Chapter 12.35. The Texas juvenile justice system defines a child as someone who is 10 years or older and under 17, which means the high school students will all be treated as adults.
Earlier this week, Lt. Cook told reporters: “This was such a large scale of graffiti we would have jumped on this regardless. Anytime you have hateful messages, that’s real concerning and we’re going to look at that. We want to know who did this and what is their motivation?””
While the police called the graffiti criminal and disturbing, the teens said it was a senior prank and may have even been part of a rivalry. One of the graffiti phrases was: “This is payback for the parking lot.” It is not known to what this refers.
“Unfortunately, you just cannot engage in this kind of criminal activity. They all admitted to this. It looks like from our interviews, they claim it was a senior prank. I don’t think they gave a lot of thought to the ramifications,” Cook told NBC DFW.
Dallas Fox 4 reported police documents showed Bodenstab drove the other teens to a nearby neighborhood and they walked to the high school. Joeckel admitted to writing the pejorative “trans only” directed at transgenders and “whites only,” a racially charged slur. He also admitted to spray painting the likeness of a penis on a wall, according to the Star-Telegram. Joeckel said most of the other graffiti was present at Martin High School and they added to it.
— Arlington, TX NAACP (@ArlingtonNAACP) May 25, 2016
The Arlington Independent School District said they worked with local police to identify the suspects in the graffiti investigation. On Friday, they tweeted the district does not tolerate vandalism and hate speech. “Students involved in the graffiti incident will receive appropriate disciplinary action.”
The AISD does not tolerate vandalism & hate speech. Students involved in the graffiti incident will receive appropriate disciplinary action.
— Arlington ISD (@ArlingtonISD) May 27, 2016
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.