A former Greenwood teacher who resigned Wednesday amid a police investigation turned himself in Friday after a misdemeanor warrant for suspected harassment was issued for his arrest.
According to a Greenwood Police Department incident report, on Wednesday a 15-year-old female student at Greenwood Junior High School filed a complaint against Spanish teacher Gilberto Huerta, 52.
The teenager told police that sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, Huerta was teaching his class when he told the girl, "I’m going to eat you," before biting her ear. The student said Huerta then walked backed to his desk and said, "Next time I’m going to put salsa on it," according to the report.
The girl also described another incident that allegedly happened two to three weeks before the complaint was filed in which Huerta, who was teaching his class the Spanish word for "under," allegedly crawled under a table where she and two other female students were sitting, then came out and said, "Don’t worry, I kept my eyes closed the entire time." The three girls were wearing pants at the time, the report states.
The teenager told police that she informed her parents and "that she has felt uncomfortable in this class with suspect Huerta as the teacher since these incidents took place," the report states.
According to the report, two other students also witnessed the alleged incidents. One witness similarly described the events, also telling police that Huerta often would finish a statement with "Not in a creepy way," which the student found to be creepy, she told police.
Another student told police that she did not see Huerta bite the teenage girl’s ear, and that Huerta allegedly was teaching a greeting and leaned into the girl’s head or hair. The student also told police she did not find Huerta allegedly crawling underneath the desk uncomfortable "since he often used examples when teaching words," the report states.
Greenwood police on Thursday interviewed Huerta, who was accompanied by his attorney. The report states the officer who interviewed Huerta acknowledged that the attorney was present, "therefore not requiring Miranda Rights to be read."
The officer told Huerta that a student alleged he had bitten her ear while in class sometime between November and December 2013. Huerta told the officer that "he was demonstrating the way in which his grandmother would greet him, but never bit or touched the victim." The officer asked Huerta again about it, and Huerta again denied contact with the girl or biting her, the report states.
The officer also asked about the incident he which he allegedly crawled under the table. Huerta denied any wrongdoing. The officer told Huerta he had several witness statements that he bit the girl’s ear and crawled under the desk, both on separate occasions. Huerta again denied the allegations, the report states.
Police on Friday obtained a warrant for Huerta’s arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor harassment. Greenwood Police Chief Will Dawson said Huerta was expected to turn himself in with his attorney.
Huerta turned himself in to the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office about 5:30 p.m. Friday, according to investigator Philip Pevehouse. Huerta was processed and released on a $1,000 bond, according to a jail official.
Huerta resigned Wednesday from his teaching position. Greenwood Superintendent John Ciesla said Huerta taught at Greenwood for four years and at times taught some overflow high school classes in addition to his junior high duties.