Saddleback College student Zach Chanoski was arrested on campus Friday for suspicion of assault for the second time in less than two weeks following an altercation with Lariat photographer Bill Bridgeford.
Chanoski, 21, has also been charged with newspaper theft and was suspended from the college, according to administrative and police reports, but remains free on his own recognizance.
He was originally arrested April 9 and charged with assault on Campus Police officer Santos Garcia, while Garcia was attempting to subdue him outside the SSC Building.
Arraignment is scheduled for Harbor Court in Newport Beach Monday at 8:30 a.m.
The original arrest took place directly below the Lariat office while class was in session, and the newspaper documented the incident on its website later that day and on the front page of its April 14 edition. Bridgeford, who suffered racial insults from Chanoski, took pictures of the first arrest.
On Friday Chanoski returned to Saddleback for a meeting in the SSC Building with Vice President of Student Personal Services Lise Tilson. According to reports, at some point during his return he removed 39 Lariat newspapers from a newsstand directly across from the men’s second floor restroom. He later gave the papers to Tilson, she said.
Bridgeford, at work in the Lariat offices down the hall from the newsstand, noticed the missing newspapers and joined instructional assistant Ali Dorri to investigate.
“I walked to the men’s room and noticed shoes in the stall with shredded newspapers on the ground,” Bridgeford said. “I went back to the newsroom and Ali told me someone had been stealing newspapers, and that’s when it dawned on me that we found our culprit.”
Dorri and Bridgeford entered the men’s room and found Chanoski.
The pair said that Chanoski became agitated and uttered a racial slur.
“He started mouthing off immediately,” Bridgeford said. “I had already taken threats the first day and then I had to listen to it all over again a second time.”
“I was just trying to limit his movement until someone else showed up,” he said. “When I was carrying him he hit my head 10 or 12 times, but I didn’t sustain injury.”
In a profanity-laced telephone call to the Lariat, Chanoski admitted to removing papers from newsstands throughout the campus and said it would happen again if he didn’t like what was printed about him. He maintained the first threat of violence came from Bridgeford.
“I was in the bathroom and this black guy rolls up,” Chanoski said. “I recognized him, he was the stupid . . . taking pictures of me being unlawfully arrested. He told me he was just doing his job and I said ‘. . . that.’ Then he came at me. He threw the first punch.”
According to Chanoski, he tried to leave the bathroom after the exchange and did not call Bridgeford any racially offensive terms.
According to reports Bridgeford unsuccessfully tried to keep Chanoski in the bathroom until help arrived. Dorri intervened as much as he could and the fight moved into the hallway.
“His shirt was torn in the melee,” Bridgeford said. “He kept posturing, waving his arms in the air, telling me his address again and wanting to ‘settle it.'”
Bridgeford felt he was being threatened and was defending himself.
“He came toward me and I reacted,” Bridgeford said. “I never threw a punch. I don’t believe the first aggression came from me.”
Dorri said that as the fight moved outside of the men’s room, various employees came to assist from matriculation, counseling and student service offices. Employees were able to separate Bridgeford and Chanoski, bringing Chanoski to the first floor.
The police report taken after the incident was forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, according to Chief of Police Harry Parmer.
In his phone call to the Lariat, one of several he placed to various campus offices Monday, Chanoski said he is considering a libel suit against the Lariat for “tarnishing his reputation.”
“The facts in the stories aren’t true,” Chanoki said. “[The Lariat staff] didn’t even try to get a hold of me to get my side of the story.”
He characterized the events of the last two weeks as a “media circus.” He criticized video footage shot by students of his first arrest that appeared on the newspaper’s website. The footage was edited in part to remove graphic language.
According to Chanoski, he went to the Health Center that day because he was ill.
“I was feeling under the weather and I asked if Campus Police could give me a ride to my car because I was on meds and under the weather,” he said. “They said I should go to the hospital, but I’m homeless right now. Do you think I could afford a hospital?
“I walked out of the Health Center and I was tackled by security from behind,” Chanoski said. “He never identified himself as being a police officer, so I just defended myself. I kicked the guy – punched him. When he threatened to taser me, that’s when I realized it was a cop.”
Chanoski was held for around 15 minutes in front of the Health Center before he ripped away from Garcia and ran toward the HS building.
The Lariat reported that eyewitnesses saw Garcia remove a plastic bag from Chanoski’s pocket, but Chanoski denies any such bag. The contents have not been made public.
When asked about running from an officer while handcuffed, Chanoski said “I’m gonna run. I don’t want to get arrested. So I ran.”
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