Four Oklahoma high school wrestlers charged in connection with sexual assault on bus

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NORMAN, Okla. (Feb. 2, 2016) – Four Oklahoma high school wrestlers have been charged in connection with the sexual assaults of a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old on a school bus.

Charges were filed against the students Monday, reports KFOR. The victims are also members of the wrestling team, prosecutors said.

One of the wrestlers, 18-year-old Tanner Shipman, is charged as an adult. The other three suspects are juveniles, reports KFOR. Charges against them include rape by instrumentation upon a person under 14. The wrestlers have all been suspended.

According to District Attorney Greg Mashburn, the incidents happened on a Norman North High School bus in Garvin County on Jan. 9 while the wrestling team was returning from a tournament.

"In this case, a significant line was crossed, it went way further into more of an assault than it was just boys being boys or anything like that," Mashburn said.

The 16-year-old was assaulted first, according to Mashburn, between seats on the back of the junior varsity wrestling bus. According to court documents, the victim was held down as the others “us[ed] their fingers to sexually assault the boy over his clothing.”

Prosecutors said cameras on the bus captured the footage of the crime and of the the perpetrators bragging about it.

Mashburn said the wrestlers lured the 12-year-old to the back of the bus, where he was then sexually assaulted. The 12-year-old said it happened again on campus, when Shipman and the others forced him behind a building and did it again.

"They assaulted him again there, he gets up and there's a third time when they just had grabbed him and put him in between two cars, but his father had pulled up, so the assaults stopped," Mashburn said.

On Jan. 14, the wrestling coach who was responsible for supervising the students was dismissed. The school released a statement about the charges:

“Student safety is a top priority and we followed procedures we have in place that allow us to effectively investigate and take swift action in these situations. We appreciate the individuals who came forward to provide information, the Norman Police Department’s thorough investigation and the quick action by the District Attorney on this incident.

“We are well-prepared to handle situations like this and have programs in place to support students who experience trauma. And, while we believe the district’s policies regarding student supervision are strong, we continuously evaluate our procedures to ensure they are followed. As we address the inappropriate behavior displayed by several students, we remain committed to supporting the vast majority of our student athletes, who are quality individuals that demonstrate positive behavior and strong character traits.”

--Dr. Joseph Siano, superintendent, Norman Public Schools

A school spokesperson said, despite the difference in the students’ ages, Shipman and his friends were part of the JV team and rode together with younger wrestlers.

A second wrestling coach resigned Monday afternoon.