MIDLAND, TX — Named the “Midland Christian Five” in a civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Western District of Texas federal court, these five educators want to clear their names. The educators at Midland Christian School were arrested by the Midland Police Department and had their mugshots plastered all over the world on news websites and social media for something they claim they did not do. And a grand jury agreed.
The lawsuit named the City of Midland, the Midland Police Department, Midland Police Detective Jennie Alonzo, Midland PD Sergeant Rosemary Sharp, and Midland PD officer Camilo Fonseca as the defendants.
In January 2022, the lawsuit states, members of the Midland Christian baseball team were engaged in locker room horseplay. According to a school internal investigation, a sophomore male player poked a freshman male player in the buttocks over his clothes with a baseball bat.
There are five plaintiffs in the lawsuit, all of them former Midland Christian educators, including:
- Former Superintendent Jared Lee
- Former Principal Dana Ellis
- Former Assistant Principal Matthew Counts
- Former Athletic Director Greg McClendon
- Former Head Baseball Coach Barry Russell
The educators — including Superintendent Jared Lee on down to Head Baseball Coach Barry Russell — investigated the incident and determined there was nothing sexual about the incident and more importantly no “penetration” of the buttocks with a baseball bat occurred. It was horseplay, the educators learned, and other than disciplining the sophomore who, along with the rest of the boys there, agreed the incident was locker room horse play and nothing else, the Midland Christian Five did not pursue any other action, according to the lawsuit.
Watch: A representative denunciation of the Midland Christian Five published on TikTok shortly following the arrests:
Rumors about the incident ran wild until it reached the ears of a concerned father who heard the incident involved sexual assault. The father called police and reported the rumor about the incident. The lawsuit traces the origin of the rumor as much as the plaintiffs could tell.
“News of the locker room incident that led to this case first reached a member of the Midland Christian School administration late in the evening on Thursday, January 20, 2022,” the lawsuit states. “The news came not from an outcry by any victim—but instead through a chain of hearsay. Specifically, a sixth-grade teacher at Midland Christian School, received a text message from a ninth-grade parent indicating that the ninth-grade parent’s daughter had told the ninth-grade parent that a freshman involved in a locker room incident had been severely injured, requiring him to miss school.”
The Midland Christian Five countered that the boy, who was named the victim in the rumors, did not miss any days of school. The Five interviewed the baseball team and their investigation found no sexual assault occurred and closed the case after counseling the boys. Quite simply, the sophomore touched the fully-clothed freshman on the buttocks with a baseball bat.
It was a week later that what the lawsuit best described as a disgruntled father of a son on the freshman baseball team went to police. The lawsuit alleged that this father had a six-year history of complaining to Midland Christian administrators and that the man's son did not witness the incident.
The lawsuit suggested that Midland PD used inflammatory language in the initial report. The lawsuit alleged the first police report of the incident stated that, “[Superintendent] Lee stated that [the administration’s] investigation found the baseball bat did in fact touch [the freshman’s] anus but did not go inside.”
The police report lead to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exam two weeks later. No injuries or trauma was determined, the lawsuit stated. On that same day, the Midland PD arrested the sophomore baseball player who was accused of causing incident. Detective Alonzo ordered Principal Dana Ellis to not contact the parents concerning the boy’s arrest.
Detective Alonzo remarked to a police sergeant, Rosemary Sharp, that if anyone called the sophomore’s parents, they too would be arrested—adding “I don’t give a fuck.”
The lawsuit alleged that Alonzo wanted to “perp walk” the sophomore boy by escorting him in handcuffs through the front doors of the school so “his arrest will be more visible.” Alonzo was ordered not to do this only after one of the Five pleaded with a Midland PD sergeant on duty. Alonzo then told school staff that next time she will park near the front doors. The lawsuit claimed this was so her “arrests could be as visible and as humiliating as possible.”
Alonzo also demanded that Superintendent Lee produce for her a copy of the school investigation into the incident. Lee requested that Alonzo obtain a warrant to prevent non-compliance with FERPA, a federal law that protects the private information of students. Lee said he was instructed by the president of Midland Christian School’s board of trustees to demand a warrant.
This angered Alonzo, according to the lawsuit. Alonzo responded to the warrant demand with, “We are going to get a warrant and get everyone’s computer!”
Alonzo did not disappoint. That afternoon, she returned with Midland PD’s Criminal Investigation Division that went through all of the school’s offices and computers as well as took photographs, to include photos of several staff members who were unrelated to the investigation, the lawsuit alleged.
Two days later, the lawsuit alleged, Alonzo signed arrest warrant affidavits of the Five for felony failure to report child abuse with the intent to conceal. The Five requested the opportunity to turn themselves in at the police station, but Alonzo refused. Instead, Alonzo arrested the Five at the school and had them paraded out of the school in front of local media assembled there to report about the case. The lawsuit alleged the arrests received worldwide media attention, including at the BBC and Newsweek as well as on TikTok and Reddit.
Three months later a Midland County grand jury no-billed the charges.
The lawsuit claimed that Midland PD and the named officers wrote and swore to false allegations making the arrest affidavits unconstitutional. The lawsuit suggested that Alonzo used inflammatory language, such as “anus,” to suggest the baseball bat penetrated the freshman so to convince a justice of the peace to sign the arrest affidavits.
Further, the lawsuit alleged that, “Defendant Alonzo further omitted that the alleged victim and perpetrator remained friends and in good graces, and that the alleged victim felt safe at school—and, apparently, at baseball practice—following the incident.”
The lawsuit stated that the actions of the Midland PD that led to the charges and arrests violated the Five’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to include false arrests and malicious prosecution.
The lawsuit demands unspecified damages and reimbursement of all attorney’s fees.
The City of Midland has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are represented by lead counsel Rusty Hardin of Houston. Midland attorney Jeff Parras is co-counsel.