Administrators from Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School, including president John M. Knight, met with detectives at the Warren Police Department early Friday morning, providing their first statements to authorities regarding a hazing incident involving varsity football players that prompted the school to shockingly forfeit its football playoff game.
Warren Police Department is in the early stages of an investigation that police said school officials originally wanted to keep in-house; the school disputes that.
"At this point, De La Salle is cooperating with the Warren Police Department," police commissioner Bill Dwyer said. "We're taking the initial report as we speak.
"From there, we'll find out exactly what occurred as far as hazing, and we'll conduct a thorough investigation."
Dwyer said he's not aware of when the incident took place or how many kids it involved. No students have been interviewed yet by police. That will happen after the school provides the police department with its initial report, a process underway Friday.
The school announced Thursday afternoon that its football team, winner of back-to-back Division 2 state championships, was cancelling the season, which included a Friday night playoff game against Birmingham Groves.
The school said in a statement Thursday that as it further investigated the hazing claims, it became clear the incident was more serious than originally believed. The school said the incident or incidents were "more pervasive than originally thought."
Dwyer said the school initially contacted the Macomb County prosecutor's office, and not the police department.
That was a mistake, said Dwyer, who learned about the incident through the media Thursday afternoon, then had his department make contact with the school.
Knight, the De La Salle president, disputes Dwyer's assertion that the school wanted to freeze out any police investigation.
“That’s an inaccurate statement. De La Salle Collegiate placed a phone call to the Warren P.D. detective at 8 a.m. Thursday morning,” Knight told The Detroit News on Friday afternoon. “I called the detective at 8 a.m. Thursday and called them a second time at 4 p.m. Thursday.”
When asked when the alleged hazing incident took place, Knight replied: “At this point I have no comment on that. Our statement is what we’re going to stand by on that issue.”
When asked if the student-athletes in question would be suspended from competing in winter sports, Knight replied: “Once again, this is a police investigation and I cannot comment on that.”
There are many rumors as to what was exactly was involved in the hazing, including talk of a sexual assault. Dwyer has heard that, but can't confirm that.
"That's out there," he said. "Maybe that will be part of it. It's too early to tell.
"They should've come to the police department first," Dwyer added, speaking of De La Salle administrators. "They attempted internally to take care of it.
"At this point, I think they know there were some mistakes made. They're trying to correct mistakes and do some damage control."
Varsity football coach Mike Giannone, winner of four state titles — two at Macomb Dakota and two at De La Salle — hasn't responded to a request for comment.
De La Salle (5-4) was to play at Groves (7-2) at 7 Friday night. Groves now automatically moves on to the second round of the playoffs next week.
The hazing news was one of several headlines to come from De La Salle on Thursday and into Friday. A student, who apparently had been bullied, was arrested for bringing a knife to school Thursday. The school also cancelled classes Friday in response to a threat made on Snapchat. The incidents appear unrelated, officials said.
Founded in 1926, De La Salle is an all-boys Catholic school whose motto — the very first thing you see when you click on its website — is "Builders of Boys. Makers of Men."
David Goricki contributed