Baseball is supposed to be a game of strikes, courtesy of the opposing team’s pitcher, but for one Robertson High School junior varsity team member, the strikes came from a teammate’s punches.
D.J. Abreu, 14, a member of the team and an eighth grade student at Memorial Middle School, suffered a black eye from a fight that took place during last Friday afternoon’s team practice. On Monday, D.J. was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery for a groin injury his family suspects may have occurred during the altercation.
A police report on the incident contains no reference to a groin injury. D.J. told police that his teammate, Brandon Trujillo, 15, pushed him, causing him to lose his balance. D.J. says Brandon then punched him twice on the right side of his face, and that when he fell to the ground, Brandon attempted to get on top of him and continued throwing punches at his face. According to the report, D.J. told the officer that he was able to block the rest of the punches, and the officer saw no visible injuries on D.J. The incident occurred at the Memorial Middle School baseball field.
The investigating officer states that based on his investigation, Brandon was the aggressor in the incident. City police have referred the matter to the state’s juvenile probation office.
D.J.’s family says longtime bullying by several teammates led to the Friday incident.
D.J.’s parents and birthmother say they want to know why the bullying hasn’t stopped, despite their numerous attempts to get school officials to intervene.
Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez said an investigation into the Friday incident is under way. She said the athletic director assured her that he addressed the issue with the parents of both children, and that district officials were planning to meet with the Abreus next week.
Brandon is the son of Darlene Arguello, according to the police report. Arguello called police after the Friday incident, reporting that D.J.’s father, Don Abreu, had punched her son in the chest following the fight. Don Abreu admitted to police that he confronted Brandon, saying he is tired of that boy and other players on the team bullying D.J.
Don Abreu says he pointed his finger at Brandon, making contact with the boy’s chest, and told him, “Why don’t you try that with me, you little (expletive).”
Don Abreu said he took matters into his own hands because he was tired of the coaches, principal and the athletic director doing nothing about the situation.
According to the police report, Arguello identified D.J. as the bully, telling police that D.J. has been bullying and harassing Brandon for the past three years — an allegation the Abreus dispute. The Abreus contend that Brandon has bullied D.J. since last year during the basketball season.
Sgt. Juan Gonzales, the investigating officer, states in his report that he asked Arguello whether she’d like Don Abreu to be charged with battery upon her son, and Arguello responded that she didn’t want to pursue charges against him.
The Abreus say that last Friday’s incident started with D.J. leaning on a chain link fence waiting to practice batting. They say Brandon started saying he was next in line. They say D.J. told Brandon that he was next in line. That’s when Brandon started punching D.J., the Abreus say.
Brandon admitted to police that he did punch D.J. twice in the face, but he says he did it because D.J. was “talking smack.”
Brandon told police D.J. was hitting him on his head with a bat. Brandon was wearing a helmet at the time, and he told the officer that D.J. didn’t hit him hard. Still, Brandon said, he told D.J. to leave him alone. Brandon says D.J. started “smack talking.” Brandon says he warned D.J. to stop, and when he didn’t, Brandon punched D.J. twice in the face.
Brandon told police that D.J.’s father confronted him in the middle of the field.
He says Don Abreu punched him in the chest with a closed fist, but he says it wasn’t a hard punch, and the officer saw no redness or swelling on Brandon’s chest.
The fight resulted in disciplinary action against D.J., who was suspended from the team for the rest of the season. Information about disciplinary action against Brandon was not released to the Optic.
The district has a code of conduct for all student athletes. Under standards of conduct, each participant is “expected to display good sportsmanship.”
Additionally, it states that “disrespectful comments, the use of foul language, violent or disruptive conduct or insubordination by any student-athlete directed to any other person … will subject the student to recourse by the school district.”
The code also states that “hazing” will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The description of “hazing,” includes calling teammates demeaning names.
D.J. says he has been called various obscene names by the group of bullies.
‘Bullying never addressed’
The Abreus, a prominent Las Vegas family, say they held D.J. back for an additional year at the middle school to keep him away from the group of bullies who now are freshmen at Robertson High School.
Don Abreu told the Optic he attends practices in hopes of preventing his son from being bullied. The family also said they travel to out-of-town games so D.J. doesn’t have to deal with bullying on the bus.
D.J.’s birth mother, Donna Abreu, along with Don and Ida Abreu, who are raising him, said they had various meetings with school officials to remedy the situation, to no avail.
“The bullying has never been addressed,” Donna Abreu says. “We have spoken and met with the coaches (basketball and baseball), principals, and (Athletic Director) Juan Carlos (Fulgenzi).”
The Abreus say that on Monday, they met again with Fulgenzi to discuss Friday’s fight and thought it was remedied, until Fulgenzi said he thought D.J. was the instigator of the brawl.
The Abreus said that during the meeting with Fulgenzi they received a phone call from Memorial Middle School notifying them that D.J. was ill and needed to be picked up.
Don Abreu took D.J. to Alta Vista Regional Hospital and was told his son needed to be airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital for emergency surgery in the groin area.
The incident prompted the Abreus to contact McNellis-Martinez to request a meeting.
“I just feel that they aren’t going to treat it as a priority,” Donna Abreu says.
“They are like, ‘Oh well, your kid got hit in the face and it is not a big deal to us.’ Accordingly, it isn’t a big deal to them because I’ve heard a lot of parents complaining about their kids being bullied; they have tried to get help and there was no help.”
McNellis-Martinez says she wants to ensure there is an appropriate response from the district regarding the alleged bullying, adding that the district doesn’t tolerate bullying. She says she hadn’t yet had an opportunity to review the written statements from those who witnessed the incident, but she added that to her knowledge, neither of the children was seriously injured.
“The bullying has continued throughout,” Donna Abreu says. “A mediation was held last year by the middle school assistant principal in hopes that it would remedy the bullying, but that didn’t help. At that point we made the determination we would need to hold him back despite (his) having the grades to move on to high school.”
“I’ve heard that there have been several parents that have complained about this group of kids bullying and intimidating their kids, and nobody is doing anything about it,” Donna Abreu says. “It is all just swept under the rug.”