Hilltop High Suspect Was "Easy Target" for Bullying: Friend

Friends defend the student arrested for bringing a gun to school, police say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The family of a student who brought a loaded gun to Hilltop High School said the 14-year-old freshman experienced a troubled childhood and was having a hard time coping with many issues. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

     Friends of a South Bay student who allegedly brought a gun to school stepped forward to defend him Thursday, calling him a sweet boy who is an “easy target” for bullying.

    The 14-year-old – who has not been identified because he is a minor – was arrested Wednesday after officers found a .44 caliber revolver in his backpack at Hilltop High School, according to Chula Vista Police.

    A classmate said the suspect was making claims like “I’m going to shoot up this place” and “I’m going to murder someone.”

    Friend: Hilltop High School Suspect Was "Easy Target"

    [DGO] Friend: Hilltop High School Suspect Was "Easy Target"
    NBC 7's Sherene Tagharobi talks with friends of a student arrested for bringing a loaded gun on campus. They say the teenager was shy, quiet and an easy target for bullies.

    The next day, when some students expressed uneasiness about returning to school, others came to the suspect’s defense, telling NBC 7 he would not hurt a fly.

    “I know him as my like, one of the sweetest kids I know in school, one of the most innocent kids I know,” said Ferris Ochoa, a friend of the suspect. “So when I hear people coming over here and saying, ‘He’s such a weird kid; he was coming to hurt us or something,’ it makes me mad because I know him as my friend.”

    Still, Ochoa doesn’t know what the student was doing with a gun; he and others believed the teen was “just being an idiot,” he said.

    The teen’s great uncle told NBC 7 the suspect was most likely crying out for help. His mother died several years ago, and since then, he’s dealt with a lot, the uncle said. 

    Court records and news archives revealed that the boy's mother shot herself in 2008. 

    The uncle also believes because the teen is prone to bullying because he’s introverted, an observation confirmed by another classmate, Savannah Lindsey.

    She said he is an easy target because “he’s just a naturally happy kid, and in a nervous situation, he’s one of those kids who’s very quiet.”

    “He’ll shy away from people, so I don’t believe he would actually go out and hurt someone just because of the bullying,” Lindsey added.

    Police have not released information about what the student’s motive may have been, but they say they’re searching his electronic devices to look for potential plans.

    As of Thursday morning, he was still in juvenile hall on charges of possession of a loaded firearm on school grounds.

    The teen’s father, Zachariah Dow, was also arrested after he turned himself in to the Chula Vista Police headquarters Wednesday. He faces charges of criminal storage of a firearm, a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a felon in possession of ammunition and willful cruelty to a child without injury or death.

    But his family is also defending Dow and saying he is a good man. 

    "I think he did a stupid thing. The court should look at the fact he's been a good father and he supports his family," said relative Dave Dow. 

    Officers served a search warrant to the boy’s home after he and his father were taken into custody. There, they said they discovered a .22 caliber, semi-automatic pistol unsecured under a bed.

    Chula Vista Police Lt. Fritz Reber said the boy probably found the revolver in the same place.

    Meanwhile, Hilltop’s school psychologist will be working with students as needed, according to Sweetwater Unified School District spokesperson Manny Rubio. The HR department also sent counseling information to staff because the incident impacted them as well.