Norman molestation arrest brings cover-up allegations
The Valentine's Day arrest of Christopher Ray Flores, a former teacher's aide, on a lewd molestation charge has some Oklahoma parents complaining the incident could have been avoided if not for cover-ups by Norman school administrators and local police officials.
Shelly Hickman, spokeswoman for Norman Public Schools, denied that any cover-up occurred.
“If people are insinuating this district doesn't take allegations seriously and doesn't investigate allegations — that's wrong,” Hickman said.
“The safety of the children and students in our system is of the utmost importance to us, and we investigate every claim.”
Norman police spokeswoman Jennifer Newell was similarly incensed at the cover-up allegation.
“People can accuse us … but the Norman Police Department doesn't do business that way,” Newell said.
Newell initially told The Oklahoman that 2007 was the first time the police department received abuse complaints against Christopher Flores. At that time, parents of four children came in with an attorney and filed assault complaints, she said.
However, parents Paul and Tammy Maus challenged that statement. Tammy Maus said she sent an email to Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey asserting that she, personally, had filed a complaint in late 2001 or early 2002 regarding “inappropriate behavior/molestation by Christopher Flores” involving a student who was not the Maus' child.
The complaint resulted in children undergoing forensic interviews, she said.
The police chief wrote back Friday, saying her 2002 complaint against Flores had been located and was overlooked initially because the suspect was identified as “Chris Flores” rather than “Christopher Flores.”
“I apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” Humphrey wrote.
“It should be noted, however, that the 2002 report was fully investigated and submitted to the Cleveland County District Attorney's Office for review. The district attorney's office declined to file any charges.”
The alleged improper action by Flores in 2002 concerned Flores taking a small boy to his house during the middle of the day, according to a Cleveland County lawsuit filed Feb. 19 by another parent.
The lawsuit claims Flores was reprimanded for his actions and that at some point he and Shave were moved to different schools, but not fired, after school officials were “made aware of harm to children.”
Flores continued to take children to his home during the middle of the school day, several years after having been reprimanded for doing so, the lawsuit alleges.
Hickman said she could not comment on whether Flores had been reprimanded.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said he was not in office in 2002, so he doesn't know what happened then. However, when the 2007 allegations were made, Mashburn said he requested an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation inquiry because of concerns by parents about possible bias within the local police department.
Mashburn said the OSBI report he received concerned allegations of physical abuse but not sexual abuse. He said he declined to file charges after reviewing the report.
“Basically it was inappropriate conduct, but nothing that was criminal in nature,” Mashburn said.
He said OSBI agents faced a difficult task in gathering reliable information because the primary witnesses were special needs children who had been talked to by parents, attorneys and others who could have influenced what they had to say.
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