TOOELE Several members of the Tooele High School baseball team may be under investigation by police after a young girl was sexually assaulted and her attack videotaped during a trip to southern Utah.
Tooele Police Chief Ron Kirby confirmed Thursday that his office was investigating alleged sexual misconduct by several high school students. The initial report to police was the boys were members of the baseball team, but Kirby said that had not been confirmed as of Thursday.
Asked about the allegations, the school district would only say they involved "one of our sports teams."
Kirby said the alleged assault was videotaped and police received the tape from the school district. His detectives viewed the tape Thursday.
Everyone in the tape appeared to be juveniles, but police had not identified the victim as of late Thursday.
"There are some very disturbing images that warrant a criminal investigation," Kirby said without going into detail.
The incident allegedly occurred in March in a Washington City hotel outside of St. George, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The baseball team was in St. George for a tournament March 11-13.
Tooele High School referred all queries Thursday to its district office.
Assistant superintendent Mike Johnsen said a parent went to the school on Tuesday regarding the allegations. The school launched an investigation and immediately notified the district, Johnsen said.
There was no immediate explanation as to the time lag between the alleged incident and the notification of school authorities.
The district did not say how it obtained the videotape, and Kirby said he didn't know.
After conducting its own investigation, the district determined Wednesday there was enough evidence to warrant police action, Johnsen said. "We always take these things seriously," he said.
Kirby said his department was already in the process of contacting the school Wednesday night because of a growing number of rumors around town about the alleged incident.
It was not known Thursday by school or police officials how many people knew of the rumors, who knew of the rumors or for how long.
Washington County investigators said they were waiting for information to be sent to them from Tooele before they began their investigation.
The main goal for investigators over the next few days is to identify the people on the videotape, including the victim, Kirby said. He did not know how many students were involved Thursday, only saying it was "several."
Once everyone is identified, Kirby said, a lot of the information will probably be turned over to another police agency in southern Utah where the alleged crime occurred.
Tooele police want to learn more about who had possession of the videotape, something Kirby said is itself serious.Comment on this story
"People don't understand how serious it is," said Kirby, who noted the person responsible for the tape could be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
Johnsen said the district is waiting for police to finish their investigation before it takes any possible action against the students.
"This is a terrible case because of the lives of the kids that will be impacted," Kirby said. "All of them will be impacted."
Cases like this also tend to divide the community, he said."This is of great concern to us," Johnsen said. "It has an impact on the whole community."