Christopher Hardy hoped to be the first person in his immediate family to don a cap and gown and walk across the stage at his high school graduation.
The 17-year-old and his mother had been looking forward to the day for years.
But Washington High School officials did not allow Hardy to participate in Saturday’s ceremony after he was arrested five days before graduation on suspicion of threatening to shoot up the Parkland school and obstructing justice.
The family, outraged at the school and the Pierce County sheriff’s deputy who arrested Hardy, contacted the NAACP’s local chapter and other community groups.
No formal complaints against the deputy had been filed as of Wednesday.
Sheriff Paul Pastor appeared at a news conference Wednesday along with the Hardy family and area black leaders. Pastor said he plans to look into the case and determine whether the deputy, a school resource officer at Washington High, acted appropriately.
The Sheriff’s Department gave this account of what happened:
The incident started May 29 when Hardy and a friend were walking to a bus stop after school. A classmate later reported hearing one or both of the boys joking about shooting up the school to become famous.
On the following Monday, an assistant principal called deputies to campus and asked them to investigate the alleged threats. The deputies identified Hardy and a 16-year-old boy as suspects through statements and video from another student.
The school resource officer called the younger boy into the front office to discuss the threats. First he blamed Hardy. Then he admitted he was involved but insisted they were joking. Then he denied Hardy was involved at all.
The younger teen allegedly took a threatening tone with the deputy, saying, “Do you know who I am? I am Maurice Clemmons’ nephew and you know how we do.”
He was referring to the man who gunned down four Lakewood police officers in 2009, then evaded police for days before being shot and killed by a Seattle police officer.
At Washington High, the deputy called for backup and arrested the younger boy. He then tracked down Hardy in the student center and placed him in handcuffs.
At the news conference Wednesday in Tacoma, Hardy said he was working on class assignments and didn’t know why he was being apprehended.
He said the deputy later “pushed me to the wall and wrapped his hands around my throat” and “dragged” me into the office.
In his report, the deputy said Hardy was yelling profanities, threatening to spit in his face and resisting arrest.
At some point, the deputies took Hardy to the floor. Hardy said one deputy hit him in the face with an open hand and placed a knee in his neck before pulling his knit cap over his head.
The deputy who arrested Hardy does not mention those things in his report. He does say he hurt his shoulder during the scuffle. The deputy remains off work, Pastor said.
Both boys were booked into Remann Hall juvenile detention center and spent the night there. They were released the next day.
Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Benton said Wednesday that he has not yet decided whether to charge either teen.
He asked investigators for more information, including details on why they believed Hardy and the other boy were responsible for the threats and what the witness claims to have heard.
After his arrest he could think only about how disappointed his mother, Vivian Hardy, would be, Hardy said.
His mom called the school June 2 and learned he’d been suspended and would not be allowed to walk in the June 6 graduation ceremony.
School officials said Wednesday that federal privacy laws prohibit them from discussing specific student disciplinary actions without parental or student consent.
But Willie Painter, spokesman for the Franklin Pierce School District, said charges being dropped by law enforcement would not preclude student discipline and consequences at the school level.
“There are many behaviors for which public schools impose discipline that may not lead to criminal charges,” he said.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Grover Johnson, director of the local A. Philip Randolph Institute, a civil rights and labor organization, criticized how the matter at school was handled.
“To come to a school and pull a young man out of class in handcuffs, that doesn’t seem like the right way to handle it to me,” Johnson said.
Hardy could have been called into the principal’s office without handcuffs, he said.
“He should’ve had the opportunity … to talk this situation out,” Johnson said
The Rev. Gregory Christopher, president of the NAACP’s Tacoma branch, said, “We want them to hold their people accountable.”
At the same time, he added, “There is some work we need to do on our end empowering parents to talk to their children about the proper way to address a police officer.”
Pastor said he learned of the incident Tuesday and that it was too soon to draw conclusions about what happened. He asked Hardy to tell detectives his side of the story.
Pastor said that while there are national tensions between black communities and law enforcement, “we need to focus on these circumstances.”
He said he will “look at this very carefully and take this very seriously.”
Hardy and his mother said the deputy who arrested him has a vendetta against the teen. The same deputy arrested Hardy in November for having marijuana at school.
Hardy said he had been suspended one other time for pushing a girl who allegedly whacked him in the back of the head.
Hardy is part of a mentoring program at school and volunteers at his church, Bethlehem Baptist. He plans to attend Clover Park Technical College and then transfer to the Art Institute of Seattle.
He was not allowed to walk at graduation, but did receive his diploma, which he brought with him to the news conference.