Four Hamilton High School football players are facing charges after being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault in connection with the hazing of current and former teammates, while two other players taken into custody Wednesday were subsequently released and are not being charged, the Chandler Police Department said.
The six players, ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old, were arrested Wednesday for investigation of the crimes, which police said occurred on the Hamilton High School campus over a span of 17 months and involved “multiple male juvenile victims” as part of team hazing of younger players.
The exact nature of the incidents wasn’t disclosed.
The announcement rocked one of the most successful high-school football programs in Arizona. Hamilton has won seven state championships since 2003.
Chandler police Sgt. Daniel Mejia told The Arizona Republic that the players arrested included one adult player. On Thursday, police said that player had turned 18 but was a minor when the offenses were committed. Police declined to name him before he was released from custody along with a juvenile suspect Wednesday night.
Chandler Detective Seth Tyler, a police spokesman, said although charges aren’t being pursued against those two players at this point, there is “always a possibility they could re-enter the case.”
The remaining four of the five juveniles now face charges, Mejia said. No other additional details were available Wednesday.
The adult suspect’s name was not being released because “he is not being charged with a crime at this time,” Mejia said Wednesday night.
On Wednesday, a Chandler police spokesman said they had enough probable cause to arrest the two released players, but they were not being charged, pending further investigation.
It was not immediately known whether the four juveniles who were booked after their arrest remained in custody Thursdayor had been released.
All six are Hamilton High School students, and one goes to Chief Hill Learning Academy part time. Both schools are in the Chandler Unified School District.
Mejia also confirmed that some members of the school’s staff were interviewed as part of the police investigation, including football coaches, but none were considered suspects.
The district issued this statement Wednesday afternoon: “The District has been cooperating with Chandler Police relative to hazing allegations involving students. Today, police arrested six students in association with the investigation. Chandler Police are in control of this matter, and the District cannot discuss details but has been instructed to defer all questions to the Chandler Police.”
District spokesman Terry Locke, citing federal privacy laws, declined to say whether the district had imposed disciplinary action against any of the players when contacted by The Republic. He added, “Any disciplinary measure the district takes will be in accordance with district policy and procedure.”
He said the district first became aware of the situation last month.
“Specific allegations about a sexual assault were received by the district in February of this year and turned over to police,” he said.
Locke said the district was not aware of any employees being investigated and that no employee had been suspended in connection with the matter
Reached for comment on Wednesday, Chandler Hamilton coach Steve Belles said, “It is an ongoing investigation.” He would not comment further.
When pressed for more information, Mejia said police “are not releasing any details of the acts.”
“As with many complex cases, investigators believe there may be additional victims or witnesses and we are encouraging them to call Chandler police,” he said.
Harold Slemmer, executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees high-school athletic programs in the state, told The Republic the association doesn’t often hear reports of hazing in high-school programs.
“The times we hear about it, schools have done a nice job dealing with it. I expect that Hamilton will do something about it,” Slemmer said. “You’ve got a world-class principal (Ken James) over there. He knows what to do. Ken James will do it.”
Hamilton has been a powerhouse football program since it began playing in 1999, a year after the school opened. It won seven state championships from 2003 to 2012 and produced countless college players. Belles has been in charge since 2006, winning five titles.
The Chandler Unified School District Governing Board held its regular meeting Wednesday night, but no speakers made reference to the arrests during the public-comment portion of the meeting, when residents can address the board about topics not on the regular agenda. A district official at the meeting would only say that the board’s agenda had been set previously with topics that would be formally addressed at the meeting.
Republic reporters Garrett Mitchell, Richard Obert, Johana Restrepo and Chris Coppola contributed to this article.