An advocacy group held a news conference Friday on behalf of a Sterling High School student who they say was “savagely beaten” in the campus cafeteria. The incident was captured in a video that went viral.
The video shows two students talking with the victim, later identified as freshman Juan Martinez Jr., 15, as he eats his lunch. Shortly after Martinez turns away from the pair, the boys strike him in the head several times and pull him to the ground. The video ends as the boys stomp and kick Martinez repeatedly.
KPRC 2 has not verified the video or its contents. Note that the video is graphic in nature.
Cesar Espinosa, executive director of the advocacy group FIEL Houston, described the video as a brief synopsis of the beating, which he said continued after the video ended.
“We have joined with the Martinez family to support them in their journey to ask for justice for their son,” Espinosa said.
Martinez sustained injuries to his head and his leg in the beating and now suffers episodes of dizziness, which concerns his family, who said Juan had brain surgery when he was younger. The family faces in excess of $13,000 in medical bills following the incident.
“Juan Jr. who was born prematurely and had to have a surgery at the age of 4 years old had to be very careful with not suffering an injury,” Espinosa said. “Unfortunately, a few weeks ago he was savagely beaten at Sterling High School’s cafeteria in front of his peers.”
During the briefing, Espinosa said the advocacy group intends to support the Martinez family and help Juan get the “justice he deserves.”
“Where was the faculty? Why did no one stop this brutal attack? Are the questions we have for HISD,” Espinosa said. “This incident has taken a toll on Juan’s physical health as well as his mental health. We want to get answers for this family so that they can get the help that they need and so that this stops happening to other students in our district.”
During the news conference, Juan and Espinosa discussed the events that led up to the beating, which occurred Aug. 24 -- the second day of the school year.
Juan said that prior to the incident in the cafeteria, the boys approached him in a bathroom. One of the boys told him that they needed to fight “in order for them to be cool.” Juan said he told the boys he would not fight them as he “had no beef with them,” and returned to class.
Juan said he knew one of the boys -- a fellow freshman he had once attended summer school with. The other individual was that boy’s older brother.
After class, Juan went to lunch. He got his food and sat down to eat when the boys came up to him and reiterated that they wanted to fight him, Juan recounted. After Juan asked the pair to leave him alone, they began striking him.
Juan said he had never had any negative interactions with the boy before and did not know why they insisted on fighting him.
Espinosa said the family may press charges and called on the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Sterling High School and the Houston Independent School District to investigate the incident.
“The family feels like they would like to press charges because this once again was unprecedented, it wasn’t merited and at the end of the day this family wants to protect their kid,” Espinosa said, adding that the boys who beat Juan were permitted to return to school soon after the incident and again began bothering him.
Juan’s father, Juan Martinez Sr., said he wants assurance that he can send his son to school without fearing for his safety.
Espinosa said Juan has expressed a desire to remain at the school, which he chose to attend due to its magnet program for aviation sciences, its ROTC program and its close proximity to his home. Juan said he has hopes of joining the Air Force.