Manger: MCPS Has Been Cooperative in Investigation of 'Horrific Crime'; Hate Speech an Ongoing Issue

Manger: MCPS Has Been Cooperative in Investigation of 'Horrific Crime'; Hate Speech an Ongoing Issue

Montgomery County police chief spoke publicly Monday about reported Rockville rape

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Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger

File photo/Aaron Kraut

Montgomery County police are continuing to investigate the March 16 reported rape of a freshman at Rockville High School as well as a slew of hate speech that has arisen in the county since the alleged crime occurred, Chief Tom Manger said in a radio interview Monday.

In his first public comment on the reported crime, Manger said Montgomery County Public Schools has been cooperative with police in the investigation and noted that he has seen a lot of community support amid instances of hate speech, mostly related to the two undocumented immigrants charged in the crime. Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, face charges of rape and two charges of sexual assault for allegedly raping a girl in a boys bathroom at the high school during school hours.

“I do believe the vast majority of our community sees it for exactly what it is—a horrific incident and a young woman’s life that’s been changed forever—and are not looking at this as an immigration issue,” he said on the Kojo Nnamdi show Monday.

The show, whose guests also included MCPS spokesman Derek Turner and Rockville High School parent Denise Fredericks, included a discussion on increased security measures instituted by the school since the reported rape, such as teachers taking attendance multiple times throughout class and a stricter policy on hall passes.

The case has sparked an increasingly vitriolic public debate surrounding immigration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the incident as justification for President Donald Trump’s harsher immigration policies. Rockville High School officials and the city’s elected leaders have received hundreds of rage-filled messages since the reported attack, many of them riddled with personal attacks and racial slurs.

“I think people need to step back from the politicization of this rhetoric and think about the individuals involved,” Turner said on the radio show.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that sanctuary cities and states that do not enforce federal immigration guidelines will not be eligible for Justice Department grants. After the announcement, a reporter asked Sessions about the reported rape in Rockville, which is considering codifying existing immigration policy in which law enforcement officers don't ask about individuals' immigration status during interactions.

Sessions did not directly address Rockville or Montgomery County, but criticized a bill under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly that would stipulate state and local law enforcement cannot ask people about their immigration status.

“Maryland is talking about a state law to make the state a sanctuary state,” Sessions said. “The governor is opposed to that, I’m glad to hear. That would be such a mistake. I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand that this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it’s not good policy.”

Montgomery County policy restricts local law enforcement from asking about an individual’s immigration status, but officials say the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction because it provides information about people who are arrested to federal agencies such as the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

During his radio show, Nnamdi also asked the guests about a fight that occurred at Rockville High School 10 days before the reported rape in which a 17-year-old senior said she was attacked in the school’s lobby by a 15-year-old student she had never met before.

Rene Sandler, a Rockville lawyer representing the senior, told Bethesda Beat on Friday that her client suffered “severe head injuries” that left her hospitalized and unable to return to school. Sandler said the student was not pressing charges, but wanted to bring awareness to the failure of the school’s security to prevent the fight and the school’s decision not to notify parents.

Turner said school officials informed police when the school resource officer arrived at Rockville High the day after the fight. Manger said the March 7 incident, which seemed to be encouraged by students filming it for social media, is something that goes on “in high schools everywhere” and “could occur almost every day.”

“I don’t think Rockville is a high school where we have a lot of gang involvement or gang activity,” Manger said in response to Nnamdi’s question about violence in the school. “I don’t think Rockville High School has any more severe problems than other high schools.”

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