Mark Hayward's City Matters: After beating, alleged attacker is back in class
The two had cigarettes, they said, that they were willing to sell to him. Bad idea, and not just because tobacco kills.
Along an old rail bed, Paquet, 17, allegedly sucker-punched Ibraheem in the cheek, according to his recounting of the incident, as well as that of a Manchester police affidavit. Ibraheem collapsed to the ground, and the two - fellow students at Memorial High School - allegedly punched and kicked him before finally taking off.
'It was innumerable,' he said about the blows to his head and torso. 'They didn't say anything. They were just going at it like maniacs.'
Two weeks before his 16th birthday, Ibraheem ended up black, blue and bloody.
Now, he suffers from post-concussion headaches and depression, according to medical reports and to his mother. Three teeth moved and were loosened, a dentist wrote. He missed 32 days of school, and his mother - a divorced mom with three teenage children at home - faced a $2,400 emergency room bill.
'I think it hurt me the most when he was weeping,' said Salaam Odeh, his mother, as she teared up during an interview last week. 'I haven't seen him cry for so long. He was weeping. He was crying from the depths of his heart.'
Six months later, Manchester school and law-enforcement officials seem to be treating the beating as if were little more than an impolite shove.
Paquet is scheduled to appear in Manchester District Court two weeks from today to stand trial on a single misdemeanor assault charge.
Paquet was arrested in June, but on Tuesday, Manchester prosecutor John Blanchard said he's still waiting to receive Ibraheem's medical records from Manchester police.
'I requested them,' he said. Once he receives and studies them, charges could be upgraded, he assured me.
I twice went by Paquet's Garvin Avenue home, where I left my card and asked him to call me.
After the attack, the Manchester school board quickly expelled Paquet and his cohort, 16.
But in August, Memorial Principal Arthur Adamakos contacted Odeh to say the Manchester School Board had allowed Paquet to return to school.
'He has no right to go to school,' said Odeh. 'There are other nice kids like my son. I don't want them to get beaten. I don't want them to get hurt.'
She also wonders why she was not asked to give input into the decision for Paquet's return to Memorial.
School officials say they can't speak about the particular expulsion, but they can talk about the process.
Superintendent Thomas Brennan said students are commonly expelled for a 365-day period.
But Brennan said the school board usually tells a student he can apply for reinstatement after a semester. The reinstatement includes all sorts of strings - apologies, grade requirements, behavioral restrictions, and efforts to keep a reinstated student away from his victim, Brennan said.
Brennan said a victim's feelings are taken into account during the initial expulsion hearing, but he's never seen school officials seek a victim's input into reinstatement.
They are informed, however, after a reinstatement is decided.
Odeh grows angry when she recounts her ordeal with school officials.
A guidance counselor suggested Ibraheem consider a charter school, she said. Adamakos didn't know about the upcoming trial and said he can't stop Paquet from riding the bus, she said.
She had to press Mayor Ted Gatsas to set up a meeting with Brennan. Brennan said it wouldn't be legal for her to address the Conduct Committee about the reinstatement, Odeh said. He's suggested she help design a safety plan for Ibraheem.
Odeh is a well-known figure in the Muslim community. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, her neighbor was prosecuted under the state's hate crime law for elbowing her and using a racial slur. At the time, Odeh went by the name Fatima Deek.
Now, 11 years later, it appears little has changed. Ibraheem, who was born in Manchester, said Paquet is one of about 20 Memorial students who have taunted him in the past for his background.
He's heard statements such as Terrorist. Turban head. Where are your planes? Get out of the country.
Ibraheem said it's gone on for years, and he shrugs it off. He said he let the Memorial school resource officer, Keith Chandonnet, know of the taunts. But police have not linked them to the attack.
'I'm a little bit too trusting,' Ibraheem said of why he agreed to go with Paquet and the other teen into the woods. At that point, Paquet hadn't said anything abusive for a while, and he thought the guy had changed.
'Despite the disrespect,' Ibraheem said, 'I try to be forgiving.'
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Mark Hayward may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org...