By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Villain, hero in youtube fight
A Ceres mother was arrested last week after a video was posted on the youtube website which shows her coaching her 14-year-old son to fight another boy in their front yard.

Jennifer Zuniga, 33, is seen in the background coaching her son to "f--- up" the other student who was encouraged to go to the Zuniga home from a walk home from Blaker Kinser Junior High School. A bystander with a cell phone camera recorded the fight which occurred in the Zuniga's front yard in the 2900 block of Agrestri. The video was uploaded to youtube, which prompted a citizen to report a tip to the Crime Stoppers tip line.

During a quick investigation, Detective Darren Venn tracked down the involved juveniles and determined the location where the fight occurred. Ceres Police School Resource Officer Sergio Jimenez was instrumental in the identification of the boys.

Zuniga was arrested on charges of child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Child Protective Services of Stanislaus County has opened its own investigation after seeing the story in local media.

According to Sgt. Jose Berber, Zuniga's son, Rito, was receiving derogatory comments and stares by the student at school. On a Friday afternoon in mid February, Zuniga and her daughter searched out the boy after he was left school and confronted him, asking if he had issues with her son and to come to her property to "handle it."

When they arrived a fist fight ensued with Zuniga cheering her son on. Mrs. Zuniga may be heard saying, "Beat him down," and "don't try to wrestle his a--, knock his a-- up." At one point in the video after fists were thrown, the boys locked bodies on the ground and Zuniga tells them to "stop hugging on him, get off of him" in hopes the fight would continue.

At least five other minors stood around the yard to watch the fight. One male is heard coaching the boys to continue fighting.

At the end of the video a man is seen intervening. Off camera viewers hear a horn honking. That's when Pastor Johnny Montalvo of Victory Outreach Church in Modesto drives by and flips a U-turn to intervene. Montalvo, a physically imposing man, walked onto the lawn to reason with Zuniga and the boys. Montalvo zeroes in on Zuniga and asks what she is doing.

"This boy has a problem with my son and I'm letting him handle it," Zuniga tells Montalvo. A young male is heard saying, "it's our front yard, we can fight here."

"What kind of example are you, lady?" retorts Montalvo just before the video ends. Her reply, "Hey, I don't care," is the last thing heard.

Off camera, Montalvo spoke to the students about making better choices.

As Montalvo was speaking to the boys that fighting is not a path to follow, Zuniga's husband arrived home and supported what he was saying. According to Sgt. Berber, "the boys shook hands and there's been no trouble since."

Zuniga is free on $25,000 bail.

Police Chief Art deWerk said Zuniga should have taken the proper channels of reporting any possible abuse to school authorities.

"I grew up in a different generation," said deWerk, "... it was done that way but it wasn't done with a parent shouting. I think that's what pushed this thing over the top. Her viciousness and conduct is what escalated the whole thing."

Scott Siegel, superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District, said he was shocked when he watched the video.

"That was not appropriate way to be defusing the situation," said Siegel. "She was encouraging it."

He noted that schoolyard bullying is "not a problem you can fully get control of" but suggested that kids of today are more aware of it and know they can report it to teachers, principals or aides. Siegel said he would have preferred that Zuniga call the school principal about any concerns that her son was being hazed at school.

"There's so many things we can do," said Siegel, who mentioned counseling, remediation, and intervention to "make a student stop."