SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Northern California mother suspected of attacking a 12-year-old boy she said was bullying her daughter at school may have targeted the wrong child, a sheriff's official said Monday.
Investigators have not found evidence linking the boy to the bullying allegations, Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown said. He said they are looking into whether another child may have harassed the girl.
"We are unable to determine if any bullying ever occurred," Brown said. "We don't know if this kid bullied this girl at all. It looks like he did not. We can't find anybody to say that he did."
The girl's mom, Delia Garcia-Bratcher, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of inflicting injury on a child after sheriff's deputies say she came to Olivet Elementary Charter School in Santa Rosa on Friday and grabbed the boy by the throat. She asked her son, who also attends the school, to point out who was bullying her daughter, the sheriff's office said.
Garcia-Bratcher's lawyer, Ben Adams, said Monday that his client is very upset over the accusation and adamantly denies attacking the boy.
"She does not deny confronting the boy and telling him to 'knock it off,' but she absolutely denies touching him," Adams said.
While Garcia-Bratcher may have broken an administrative rule by not signing in when she arrived at the school, she had every right to protect her children, he said.
"I don't know what the DA will charge her with, and if they do, we will absolutely fight it vigorously every step of the way," Adams said.
Garcia-Bratcher told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that she was about 3 feet away from the boy when she confronted him about calling her daughter a "dirty Indian." She said he agreed to stop bullying her daughter and that they had no physical contact.
"He just said OK," Garcia-Bratcher told the paper. "He was real polite and walked away."
The Sonoma County district attorney's office was awaiting the sheriff's report before deciding on filing any criminal charges, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Garcia-Bratcher's children did not attend school Monday as a precaution, Adams said. He also did not know if they would return Tuesday.
"I don't want them getting harassed," he said. "They've gone through enough already."
While several students saw Friday's incident, no adults witnessed what happened, said Brown, the lieutenant. The students later told a deputy that Garcia-Bratcher threatened the boy about bullying her daughter. The school staff took photos of red marks on the boy's neck, Brown said.
On Saturday, Garcia-Bratcher came into the sheriff's office to give a statement and was briefly taken into custody, Brown said.
"This is crazy," Garcia-Bratcher told the Press Democrat. "I'm on the news. I feel like a monster."
She was later released on $30,000 bail.
"Even if some bullying did occur, that doesn't change the crime that the mother allegedly committed," Brown said.
Meanwhile, school officials also were investigating whether the girl was bullied. Officials from the Piner-Olivet Union School District gave parents a flier Monday about the incident and reminded them about the school's visitation policy.
"It's terrible when this kind of thing happens. We take it very seriously," Superintendent Jennie Snyder said. "Incidents like these are very rare, and when they do happen, we respond."