THERMAL, Calif. - Some families on the east valley are still reeling after a graduation nightmare Wednesday night. Several families called into our newsroom saying they were being kept out of the Desert Mirage commencement ceremony. The district says it's because of some criminal activity, while students and parents tell a different story.
Graduation is a celebration of years of hard work and the start of something new. For Desert Mirage high school senior Victor Barragan, he was looking forward to sharing it with his sister. "My whole family would be there, having fun with friends and family, laughing," said Victor.
On her way to cheer him on, Marina Barragan got stuck in a crowd of people watching the ceremony behind a fence instead of inside the stadium. She says the school oversold tickets, forcing security to close the gates and turn people away. While trying to catch a glimpse of the graduates, she saw something she felt was inappropriate. "I was just trying to tell them what I heard," said Marina. "I heard a teacher threaten a student. From what I know, that's a pretty big deal, but I guess not here."
Barragan says she pled her case to a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy who told her to back away. Then, she says things got physical. The deputy arrested her on suspicion of battery of an officer and resisting arrest. "When he came at me to push me again, when my hand touched his chest that was automatically assault," said Barragan.
Still, the issue of family and friends left outside the graduation remains. The district says the gates closed while Barragan got arrested, then reopened. It's also investigating someone selling counterfeit tickets at the door. "The school only printed 4,400 tickets, the venue holds 4500 people and the school actually has in its possession about 600 tickets."
The sheriff's department doesn't know about the counterfeit tickets. Whatever the case, the day of celebration got ruined for at least one family. "I missed his graduation, because of a dispute, and a dispute that was unjustified," said Barragan.
The sheriff's department will not comment on Barragan's claims. She is waiting for her court date.