By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
At 17, Juan Rayford Jr. was like so many other teens with big dreams – he wanted to escape his hardscrabble neighborhood and play college football and perhaps make it into the NFL.
But a fateful 2004 night in the northern Los Angeles County city of Lancaster, quickly turned those dreams into a lifelong nightmare.
Rayford had just returned to school to complete credits toward his diploma and what he’d hoped would be a shot at playing football, or, at minimum, a shot at getting out of the city that sits north of Los Angeles and the crossroads of the steamy hot and dry Antelope and Mojave deserts.
Rayford’s mother moved him to Lancaster to keep her son away from the influence of the gangs and violence that have led to as much bloodshed as Rayford’s dad, Juan Rayford Sr., saw in all of his years in the military.
Rayford’s parents were divorced, but both pushed for their child to succeed.
However, they were both aware that the Antelope Valley wasn’t immune to gangs and the related complications that are too often visited upon young African Americans, especially where law enforcement and (ultimately) America’s system of justice are involved.
While at a house party with some friends, Juan Jr. ducked into the back of the hosts’ home to play video games. While there, he said he heard the commotion between a friend and another individual.
“The friend and the other guy had a long-standing beef and it spilled over to a fight and Juan and everybody came running,” said Juan Sr., who lived in Virginia at the time of the incident and now lives in Texas. “Shots were fired, and when the police came, they took names and wanted to know who did what.”
“My son did nothing wrong, he had no gun and there were some shots fired but nobody was hit, nobody was hurt,” he said.
After questioning everyone there, prosecutors appeared to hone in on Rayford Jr. and another teen, Dupree Glass.
Although no one was shot or injured and the home owner and other witnesses initially said the teens weren’t involved, or at least did not possess a gun, Rayford Jr. and Glass were charged with 11 counts of attempted murder.
At trial, both Rayford and Glass were forced to depend upon overworked public defenders. They were offered a deal: 15 years in prison.
“I’m not guilty,” Rayford Jr. pled to his father and all who would listen.
His plea, however, fell on deaf ears.
Zealous prosecutors, who successfully requested bail set at $11 million, piled on.
On October 25, 2004, Juan Rayford Jr. was sentenced to 220 years, plus — 11 life terms.
Texas officer pulled out woman’s tampon on side of road, settlement expected
SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio is scheduled to vote Thursday on a possible $205,000 settlement for a woman who claims a San Antonio Police officer pulled out her tampon and searched her vaginal cavity on a public street in August 2016.
Natalie D. Simms filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Antonio after she was approached by police while sitting on the side of a public street, talking on the phone and waiting for her boyfriend.
Simms had driven her car to the area and consented to a vehicle search by police, according to the lawsuit.
Documents show that despite not finding anything illegal during the search of the vehicle, a female officer was called to the scene to search Simms’ body.
Detective Mara Wilson, who is now retired, arrived on scene and conducted the search on Simms in front of several male officers. The search was also partially recorded by a dash camera on Wilson’s police vehicle.
The lawsuit details the conversation between Simms and Wilson during the search and indicates Simms did not consent to a vaginal search.
Wilson pulled Natalie’s pants and underwear down in public and used her flashlight to search the area, in addition to pulling a string attached to a tampon out of Simms vagina, according to the lawsuit.
The conversation between Simms and Wilson, taken directly from the lawsuit, reads:
WILSON: Uh-huh. Are you wearing a tampon, too?
WILSON: Okay. I just want to make sure that’s what it is. Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: Come on. Yes.
WILSON: Huh? Is that a tampon?
SIMMS: It’s full of blood, right? Why would you do that?
WILSON: I don’t know. It looked like it had stuff in there.
SIMMS: There ain’t nothing in there.
Wilson also commented on the amount of pubic hair Simms had and continued to tell Simms they could not go to the police station to finish conducting the search, despite Simms’ persistence, the lawsuit states.
Simms was allowed to drive away following the search when officers didn’t find anything illegal. She filed the lawsuit in March 2018.
If approved during Thursday’s city council meeting, the settlement money would be paid from the city’s self-insurance liability fund.
Mother says 12-Year-Old son Suspended From Worcester Middle School for Hugging Gym Teacher
A 12-year-old student in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been suspended for hugging a gym teacher.
The foster mother of the Forest Grove Middle School student is asking for change after the boy was suspended for 10 days and given a record of physical assault of a teacher.
“I was told he had put his hands on a teacher,” said Julie Orozco. “I was shocked and asked for details on what happened, and then I was told that he hugged his gym teacher.”
“At the end of the day, I just hugged her, nothing really happened,” the seventh-grader said.
NBC10 Boston is not identifying the 12-year-old boy, but Orozco says he fully admits he was fooling around with friends in gym class when the teacher told him to sit out.
“And then I went over just like, and I gave her a hug and said, ‘Please, I don’t want to sit out’ because I like the game,” he said.
After sitting out for five minutes, the teacher allowed him to play.
“I don’t expect the teacher to have to be OK with being touched or being hugged, but I do expect as an educator that she educate what the boundaries are in her classroom,” Orozco said.
She says after several phone calls, emails and an eventual hearing, she got his school record reduced to “disruption of school” and his suspension reduced to four days. But she says there’s nothing in the school handbook about hugs and she doesn’t want this incident to be held against him in the future.
“If you can admit to me that you didn’t have a mechanism or a process, or any way of informing students what your expectations were, but then in the same breath you say to me, ‘He’s 12, he should know hugs are not OK,’ it’s confounding,” Orozco said.
Reached by phone, the school district’s safety director said the district has no comment on the matter.
Orozco has been invited by the school committee to speak at their meeting Thursday about what her son is going through.
Texas police officer facing DWI charges after being found passed out at drive-thru
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi Police Department officer is facing DWI charges after being found passed out at a drive-thru this weekend.
Donnie Mersing, Jr., 51, was arrested at 3:08 a.m Saturday. According to court documents, officers were dispatched to the Whataburger on the 4000 block of IH-69. An off-duty officer said he found Mersing sitting in the driver seat of his truck, asleep in the drive-thru.
That off-duty officer said Whataburger staff told him Mersing had ordered and was passed out between the two drive-thru windows. The off-duty officer walked outside and started hitting the the vehicle window to wake up Mersing.
According to the report, “it took him awhile to wake up but when he did he found that Mersing seemed out of it.”
The off-duty officer had Mersing pull into a parking stall in order to clear the line of vehicles waiting behind him.
Once Mersing pulled into a parking spot, he handed the officer his driver’s license and his Corpus Christi Police Department’s identification card.
When an officer with the Corpus Christi Police Department arrived, she found that Mersing had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
According to the report, he “had an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting for his person.”
Mersing told the officer he had been up since 5:30 a.m. He was tired and fell asleep. Mersing said he just stopped at Whataburger to get a breakfast burger and was heading back home.
According to the report, Mersing told the officer he was coming from his home. He also said he had a six-pack of Bud Light around noon and also had a beer with dinner.
Mersing was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was taken to the City Detention Center where he refused to provide a breath specimen.
A judge set Mersing’s bond at $2,500. He bonded out of the Nueces County Jail later that day.
There’s no word yet on Mersing’s status with the Corpus Christi Police Department.