Los Angeles Unified School District investigators have ended their inquiry into a knife threat allegedly directed at a 16-year-old girl trying out for the Poly High B football team with the conclusion that her charges were fabricated.
Nicky Harris, who reported harassing phone calls and vandalism in addition to the knife incident, said a group of youths told her to "quit the team or else" while threatening her with a knife on Sept. 20.
"After investigating what she said occurred, we have to conclude that she was making it up," said Wesley Mitchell, assistant chief of police for the school district, on Tuesday.
Harris, who never filed an official complaint with school district police, said last month that she told Poly officials of a series of incidents. But administrators at the school--including the principal, athletic director and B team assistant coach--denied she had told them of the harassment.
That was just one discrepancy school police looked into. Michell said they turned up others.
"Once the investigation was started, it was evident there were some inconsistencies in her story," Mitchell said.
For instance, he said, she had reported phone calls at her home, and told officers that someone had vandalized a car that her father had bought her the previous weekend.
"In checking it out," Mitchell said, "we found that her parents had not bought her a car, weren't aware of any phone threats at their house, and didn't even know she was trying out for the football team."
Richard Harris, Nicky's father, declined to let his daughter comment on the matter. He defended her account of the incident Tuesday and said he thought that the case was still under investigation.
"Just because somebody doesn't file a complaint doesn't mean they made up the whole story," Harris said. "Nicky is just sick from the pressure, from all of the guys, all of the publicity, everything. She just decided to go back to the other things she was doing before all of this started, like playing in the junior symphony and being a flag girl in the school band," Harris said.
"Why would anyone make up something like that?"
Lacking an official complaint from Harris, however, school district police closed the inquiry.
"There were no other witnesses to the alleged attack," Mitchell said. "We let her look through a school yearbook to try to identify any assailants, but she decided not to file the complaint.
"After we talked to her parents, it became pretty apparent that this was a fantasy of hers, possibly to try to get some attention. I don't think she was aware of the seriousness of the matter. She had a pretty good story, but . . ."
Harris said that police had not told him that their investigation had concluded.
"The last thing they told my wife and myself is that they would get back to us on how the investigation was going," Harris said Tuesday. "This is the first I've heard about the case being closed."
Dave Heisler, the Poly B team coach, said he didn't know why Harris declined to formally report the alleged attack, adding: "She must have her reasons."
Heisler said Harris has remained with the team as an assistant manager.
Poly Principal Phillip Nassief was unavailable for comment.
Poly Athletic Director George Tidebeck said that although the investigation has ended, many school administrators are still in the dark about the affair.
"Lots of us here still don't know what went on. She said she was attacked by a group with a black, a white and a Mexican, but you just don't see too much of that. But I can't assume she was lying, I wasn't there," Tidebeck said. "None of us were there.
"Based on my conversations with her, it seems that she doesn't want to talk about it anymore. She just wants it to end."
Harris, a 5-9, 165-pound junior who wanted to be a center, was trying to become the first girl on a football team at Poly, a City Section 2-A school in Sun Valley. But after an ankle injury during preseason workouts, Harris sat out the team's contact drills, and was never officially a member of the team, Tidebeck said.
"I can't assume that she did this to get out of playing," Tidebeck said. "But you never know."