Family says ‘fight far from over’ for teenager accused of choking teacher

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Earnest Gathing Jr. and Iris Morgan walked into the courtroom Friday morning, they were hoping to take their teenage son home for the first time in months, they said. Twenty minutes later, their son cried and was ushered out of the side door by the court officers.

“He’s ready to come home,” Earnest said during an interview after court. “He had three  months left on probation when this happened. He hasn't been in trouble in a longtime.”

Their 15-year-old son, who will not be identified due to his age, has been charged with assault and battery after he allegedly choked a teacher at Kalamazoo Central High School on February 6. He’s been in juvenile detention since the incident. Friday afternoon was his competency hearing at the Justice Complex on Gull Road.

“It was real stressful,” said Morgan about the hearing. “He was real happy that everybody was here for him though. And I really do miss him and want him to come home.”

Other relatives attended the hearing. The NAACP and Michigan United were there as well. When proceedings began, assistant prosecuting attorney Ramie Almeda asked for the hearing to be adjourned because they received the 20-page competency report the day before at 3 p.m. and he questioned the author's integrity. The defense attorney rebutted.

“Even if the report is considered hearsay, it is still legally admissible and the court should read it,” said attorney Scott Ryder. “All do respect to the prosecutor, the reason they are not stipulating is because the outcome of the report is not favorable to their position.”

Ryder went on to ask Judge Julie Phillips if the teenager can be released to go home to his parents. Almeda argued that he should remain detained because he was already on probation when the incident occurred and has had a few conflicts with others while in detention. He cited a recent report, written on April 10, 2018, by a caseworker who stated that the teenager will only learn lessons with maturity.

“[The juvenile] certainly understands right from wrong that allows him to make better choices,” Almeda read aloud to the court. “But again this is from a probation officer that has been dealing with this young man for a longtime. So again we’re asking the court to keep the young man next door.”

After hearing the arguments, the judge adjourned the hearing to June. She denied the defense’s request to release him to his parents because of his actions while at the detention center.

“I hope that you don’t have any more assaultive behavior,” said Judge Phillips to the teenager. “I’m disappointed to hear that since February.”

The teenager cried when the hearing was over. His mother told him “It’s not over” as well as the local NAACP representative. The family said they want the courts to consider their son's learning disability, which they believe is what led to the incident at the school. Nonetheless, they’re going to continue to fight for his release.

“The fight, like I said, it's not just for my son,” Gathing said. “It’s for the whole community who’s going though this. The fight is far for over.”

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    • George White

      I suggest you read the police report. You can get a copy from Township Police Department. There were 2 violations of the law here. One by the teacher and one by the student. The teacher was not trained to address the issue without it escalating. The young man was leaving the classroom and should have been allowed to do so without incident. It’s unlawful to choke someone, but it’s also unlawful to physically restrain a child unless that child is a danger to himself or others. In the young mans plan it states dont touch his hall pass or you will evoke a reaction. If a child says twice dont touch me or my stuff then you respect that. There is a lot wrong with this case and the incident only happened because KAlamazoo Public School administration doesn’t foster an atmosphere of love, caring , dignity and respect toward all.

  • C

    If he’s found guilty, anybody of normal intelligence would sentence him to as much time as possible, and if they do, at least the day he commits a murder will be delayed. The question isn’t if. It’s when.

  • Iamct01

    Alternative high school I went to if you hit a teacher you probably have students coming for you. Calling teachers by their first name does help with older kids.

  • Frank

    I can certainly understand the parents desire to bring their child home, unfortunately, a parents love is blind. This child’s past infractions, current infractions within the juvenile facility, along with the assault of the teacher (which by the way is not “aldedged”, it was all caught on video – guilty) proves his inability to walk amongst our community members. Too bad for the parents, but for the best of society he needs to be placed in a correction facility in hopes he can be corrected; not walking with law abiding peaceful citizens. Further, does the NAACP and Michigan United really want the responsibility of leading a rebellion to release this proven felon into society? The next time he follows his pattern of assulting peaceful citizens he may kill someone. Shame on you NAACP and Michigan United. This teacher was nearly choked to death. (See video, see related documentation)