- This Week
A bizarre antigay hate crime stuns SF's premier public high school — and the administration tries to keep it quiet
12.05.06 - 10:45 pm | Amanda Witherell |
It was a little after 6 o'clock on the morning of Sept. 21 when Naomi Okada arrived to start her day at Lowell High School. The Japanese language teacher is often at work early, and after a short wait a custodian let her into the building. Okada made her way down the quiet, empty halls of the school and up a stairwell to the second floor, where she unlocked the door of the World Language Department office. She dropped her things by her desk, one among more than a dozen belonging to the language teachers who share space in the large office. As she entered the nearby kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, John Raya's desk, in the corner by the door, caught her attention.
"I noticed there was paint all over his computer," Okada told the Guardian. "My first impression was that it looked like a bucket of paint was poured over it." Thick streams of pink liquid dripped from the monitor onto the keyboard and were splattered on the wall behind the desk and the chair in front of it.
She thought this might have been an accident, but since Raya was also an early riser and usually came in about a half hour after her, she decided to go look for him. She walked quickly down the hallway, past Spirit Week posters painted the same shade of pink, to Raya's classroom. It was still locked. Moments later she ran into him in the hallway, and together they went back to the office.
Okada hadn't yet passed close enough to the desk to see a note propped on the keyboard. It was Raya who would first read what it said:
"Big mouth fag!!!!! You start too much trouble in this department!!!! Mind your fucking business and go back to New York!!!!! Or Cuba or wherever the fuck you come from!!!!!"
"I was stunned," Raya told us. "It didn't hit me in the beginning. It was just bizarre. It didn't make sense. And then the reality hit."
Raya thinks the pink paint was chosen because he is gay and the words because he's been speaking up about problems he sees in the language department in which he has taught French and Spanish for almost 20 years.
Soon the school's interim principal, Amy Hansen, and assistant principal Peter Van Court would have the room closed off and guarded by security. John Scully, the police officer assigned to the school, would arrive to gather evidence that might identify who committed the hate crime.
And all of that would take just a few hours. The destroyed keyboard and desk chair would be removed and replaced. The paint would be wiped up, leaving spare vestiges of pink in the seams of the computer monitor and on the chalk tray behind it. By lunchtime it would seem as though this had never happened — and most of the school would still be unaware that it had.
Later, Inspector Milanda Moore of the San Francisco Police Department's hate crimes unit would be assigned to the case, and Raya would ask her why a crime lab was not brought in. "She said that was Mr. Scully's call," Raya said.
"We didn't really have a lot of evidence," Scully told us. "I guess it's a computer office classroom," he said, misidentifying the room. "A lot of people touch computers. It would be hard to get a good fingerprint. I didn't see the point." He said rooms that see a lot of use and are heavily trafficked by kids are hard to fingerprint.
This, however, isn't one of those rooms. It's an office to which only faculty and administration have keys and access, and students are strictly forbidden from entering without supervision.
Most Commented On
- Street music - May 23, 2013
- Okay. In case you hadn't - May 23, 2013
- So that would make Asians - May 23, 2013
- Kind of funny...... - May 23, 2013
- And anyway, you missed my - May 23, 2013
- SF schools not geared for trades - May 23, 2013
- I do live in a place I can - May 23, 2013
- If your out of town workers - May 23, 2013
- I was there last night... - May 23, 2013
- Brick and Mortar, not Brick and Martyr - May 23, 2013