Escondido police weigh in on controversial EUHSD suspensions

Suspended San Pasqual High School senior Brandon Cappelletti.

In an unusual move, Escondido police weighed in late Thursday on a highly controversial suspension of two high school students that has hit the news, sparking protests from hundreds of Escondido residents at this week’s Escondido Union High School District (EUHSD) board meeting.

Meanwhile, a hearing on whether the two students would be expelled was moved up from Feb. 25 to today, Friday, Feb. 12, by school officials.

Escondido police Lt. Ed Varso issued a 300-word news release going into detail about an arrest of Brandon Cappelletti, 18, as an adult on suspicion of misdemeanor violation of bringing a knife on to the grounds of San Pasqual High School. Varso also discussed the case of Sam Serrato, 16, without mentioning him by name.

The back story involves wall-to-wall press coverage following a Jan. 27 incident during which Cappelletti was found by campus security to have several knives, in his parked truck. Cappelletti, and Serrato, in a separate, but similar incident that day, were suspended by school authorities.

Cappelletti, Serrato, their families and friends have protested long and loud since then with many TV stories and much newspaper coverage. An estimated 200 supporters showed at Tuesday’s EUSD meeting saying the boys had made honest mistakes and shouldn’t have their possible future aspirations damaged by the incident aftermaths.

School officials said they had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to bringing weapons onto school campus and that was all she wrote.

Sam Serrato

Sam Serrato

Cappelletti and Serrato, according to supporters, have very good reputations. Cappelletti already had enlisted in the Marine Corps where both his father and grandfather served. He was due to report to boot camp in June. Serrato is an honors student and football star with hopes for a college sports scholarship.

The Cappelletti affair began when security officials said drug-sniffing dogs alerted officials to his Ford Ranger truck. Several knives and a bottle of Advil were found. Cappelletti said he had been on a Lake Dixon fishing trip a few weeks before and tossed two knives into the truck console and one in a tool box behind the seat.

Dogs also alerted to campus security about Serrato’s GMC Yukon. Serrato gave them permission thinking the truck was clean. Officials found a bottle of Advil and a pocket knife his father had tossed in the truck’s glove compartment without Serrato’s knowledge.

The boys have been suspended with administrative hearing on possible expulsions originally set for Feb. 25. The outcry this week apparently prompted school officials to fast-track the hearing to Feb. 12.

Cappelletti has enrolled at Calvin Christian and is working part-time at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in San Marcos. A conviction would prevent him from joining the Marine Corps, where he was scheduled to report to boot camp on June 20.

Serrato has been working out at a private gym and worries a possible conviction and expulsion will dash his hopes for a college sports scholarship he needs to attend school.

The Escondido police statement details the Jan. 27 arrest of the two students. San Pasqual High School officials requested the assistance of an Escondido police school resource officer (SRO). Each student was asked permission to search their vehicle upon which the various knives were found, Varso said. Cappelletti was interviewed in the presence of his mother, Varso said.

“At the conclusion of the investigation, the SRO determined that both students were in violation of a misdemeanor crime by bringing the knives on school property.,” Varso said  “The juvenile student’s case has been recommended for the Juvenile Diversion program. The Juvenile Diversion program involves a collaborative effort to address various juvenile crimes without the case being heard through the formal juvenile court process.

Varso added: “The second student, Brandon Cappelletti is an adult and not eligible for the diversion program. Cappelletti was issued a misdemeanor citation and released at the school to his mother.”

San Diego County had more than 500,000 students. The California Department of Education said 724 county students were suspended for possessing a weapon during the 2014-15 school year with 78 expelled.

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