INDIANAPOLIS — A staff worker who works with at-risk children is accused of punching a 17-year-old in the face, causing the teenager to suffer a concussion, and then trying to bribe the teen with cash and weed so that he would not tell police.
Gilberto Leija, 32, is charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of obstruction of justice, both Level 5 felonies.
Court records show a warrant for his arrest was issued on Monday.
According to court documents, the incident occurred on Feb. 28 at the Firefly Children & Family Alliance’s Rachel Glick Courage Center, a short-term facility for at-risk children who are involved with the Indiana Department of Child Services or who are on juvenile probation.
Video footage of the incident eventually obtained by police reportedly showed the incident. The incident aligned with original reports made by the 17-year-old to officers while he was at the hospital.
According to court documents, Leija came into a game room at the Courage Center and began talking to several juveniles. Police said Leija appeared aggravated with the victim and eventually threw a chair across the room in a fit of anger.
The chair landed “just a few feet away” from the victim and other juveniles, police reported.
The 17-year-old victim and Leija then got into a verbal confrontation, according to court documents. Investigators then said Leija swung “out of nowhere” and clocked the teenager in the face. He swung a second time but missed due to the teenager falling.
Police said the first strike “stunned” the teenager and caused him to fall backward and hit his head on an air conditioner unit. The teenager suffered a concussion, investigators said, and can be seen in the video stiffly extending his arm into a “fencing position”, a reaction often associated with brain injury.
Leija reportedly tried to lift the teenager up several times and eventually guided him over to a couch. He could also be seen checking the teenager’s face for blood and bruising.
The victim told police Leija walked him outside where he offered the teenager $500 and marijuana if he promised not to call the police. Court documents reveal that security footage shows Lieja walking the victim outside the Courage Center without staff permission.
A lawsuit has been filed against Leija and the Firefly Children & Family Alliances, with whom Leija was employed and who runs the Courage Center.
The lawsuit accused the Firefly Children & Family Alliances of being negligent and of trying to cover up the incident by originally not cooperating with police.
According to court documents, the original investigating officer attempted to speak with staff at the Courage Center but was told that due to Firefly’s protocol, they couldn’t give out information regarding the incident. The director of the center also allegedly told the officer that they would contact police after speaking with the victim’s mother and make a report “if needed.”
Firefly Children & Family Alliances did end up providing video of the incident to police after a detective was assigned to the case and returned to the Courage Center.
Both the lawsuit and the court documents reveal that Leija has been terminated from his position.