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High school students reach out to Colfax I-80 rock attack victim

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Trying to make sense of a crime that left their community confused and saddened, Colfax High School students are reaching out to the motorist injured in a rock-throwing attack on Interstate 80. Three students from the school have been charged in adult court with assault causing serious bodily injury related to the attack and charged with assault with a deadly weapon in two others. The charges accuse Hunter Perez, 16, Samuel Edward Quinlan, 16, and Sean Edwin Steele, 17, of throwing gravel, rocks and a barricade off the Canyon Way overpass onto three vehicles traveling underneath. In the most serious of the three incidents, Sacramento’s Jose Palomera was injured when he was struck in the face with a rock that smashed through his front windshield. He was able to pull his vehicle to the side of the road after being struck. The three teens charged were all members of the varsity football team training for the upcoming season. Quinlan is now out of custody on bail and has returned to classes at Colfax High while Steele and Perez remain in Placer County’s Juvenile Detention Center in North Auburn. Classes started Wednesday at the Ben Taylor Road campus and students and faculty have already moved to set up two fund-raising activities for Palomera. He spent five days in hospital and told reporters Wednesday that his jaw remains wired after surgery. He suffers regular nightmares from the early morning incident that he said was a miracle he survived. Colfax students were expressing concern over Palomera’s injuries and pain over the damage to their school and community’s reputation from the attacks three of their own are accused of. “I still don’t like to believe it happened,” 16-year-old Colfax High student Alexis Wybrecht. “You don’t expect anyone to do that – it’s just commonsense.” “It’s really sad,” added 16-year-old Sara Davidson. “They’re like a really big part of the school. People looked up to them and they’re pretty much everyone’s friend. They would do stupid things but I didn’t expect them to go that far.” “It makes all the kids look bad,” 16-year-old Spencer Perry said. “They were the star members of the football team. We’re not only losing respect but talent over stupidity and that’s sad.” Quinlan’s return to school is being questioned by some in the community. Annamay Haviland, an eight-year Colfax resident, said she was surprised Quinlan had returned to Colfax High. “I thought they were a no-nonsense school,” Haviland said. Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent, confirmed that Quinlan was back at the Colfax school. Any student can’t be denied the right to an education unless a court order blocks that, he said. Quinlan hasn’t been tried or convicted of a crime and students can continue to take classes, even while on probation, Horsey said. The freeway attack has sent shockwaves through the Colfax High School community and community at large. Ron Dotto, a Colfax business owner, said the three accused will probably be made examples of in court. “People are saddened,” Dotto said. “I’m sure they’re probably good kids and when you’re young like that, you’re put up to things. But now a lot of people are paying the price and it’s bad for everybody involved.” Principal Rick Spears said the 830-student campus is moving ahead with at least two measures to help remove what he describes as a black eye not only to the school and its football program but the community as a whole. The band and choir’s annual Fall Music Concert on Oct. 13 will be a fundraiser, with proceeds going to Palomera. Tickets are not yet available. And the $10 per ticket raised from Colfax football’s allotment of tickets for its Sept. 3 game against Durham at the Del Oro High School “Battle of the Capital” non-league series will also be directed to the victim. With 200 tickets for sale, that would provide $2,000, Spears said. “This has been kid-generated – they want to put a better light on the school,” Spears said.