A mother sees her child bullied online and in person, and asks the Geneva police for help. Her alarming story includes serious allegations of misconduct by the GPD.
“If I let this go, I feel like I’m failing her”
Michelle Wilcox grew up in Geneva and now lives in Waterloo. “I wasn’t born into a wealthy family and my children were never fed with a silver spoon,” says Michelle. She is the mother of three, aged 18, 16 and 13. Her oldest (a son) has graduated high school, while her two daughters are both honor roll students who are also involved in athletics. Michelle readily admits that her kids aren’t perfect, but in the next breath, she gushes about how proud she is of all of them.
When asked why she’s telling her story, Michelle said “I can not and will not end this fight until I have justice for my daughter. My daughter is NOT the only child going through this. This is why the suicide rate among our youth is so high. I need to be the one to vocalize and advocate for any child going through this.”
“If I let this go and don’t protect and defend her, I am setting her up for a lifetime of shame,” she continued. “I have explained to the other girls’ mothers that if I show (my daughter) that we settle, what happens if she’s in college and gets raped? What if he has wealthy parents who “run” a town like in Geneva? Will she be afraid to stand up strong and confront him or will she think that she can’t have justice because the system has failed her?”
“We have an issue. Someone needs to stop this.”
Michelle’s youngest daughter (who this article will refer to as “Lisa”), had a falling out with one of her friends, also 13, who had been dating a “high school boy” from Geneva. Soon after, words were exchanged on social media and in person from both sides (including Lisa). Still, Michelle wasn’t overly alarmed. She figured that it would blow over eventually and told her daughter to “move on and stay away from (the former friend).”
On September 7th, 2017, Michelle looked through an online group chat that a group of Geneva students had started, and then added Lisa. One of the Geneva boys told Lisa that they would come to Waterloo to fight her, and soon Michelle’s other daughter and nephews joined the chat in order to defend Lisa. Michelle became concerned at the escalating threats at this point, saying “Now I’m thinking that we have an issue. Someone needs to stop this.”
Then she looked further into the teens’ conversation.
“I keep scrolling and (one Geneva boy) sends pictures of guns…two different guns and one video loading the clip into the gun. So three pictures and one video.”
“Now we have an enormous issue.”
“Eventually the messages stop. For two days I research trying to get parent phone numbers.”
“Now here it comes again.”
Over the coming days, Michelle says bullying of the Waterloo girls continued.
“It’s Gone Way Too Far.”
On September 22nd, Lisa was sent an online video that had been posted on multiple social media platforms (including SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat).
Three young males from Geneva had created and posted a 2+ minute “dis” video, with the youths rapping about their disdain for Waterloo, specifically naming Lisa and several of her schoolmates. The lyrics aim degrading sexual comments toward the Waterloo girls (who are, keep in mind, around 13 years old). The “rap” also mocks some of the girls’ physical appearances and family histories.
WARNING: The following audio link contains graphic language and adult content. All names have been removed from the song.
Michelle says the video “was shared hundreds of times and forwarded to everyone, including (Michelle’s) family members.”
She immediately called the parents of the other girls mentioned in the video, and then called each of the teenage boys and asked for their parents’ phone numbers (not unexpectedly, the boys would not share that information).
“I refused at this point to let it go,” says Michelle. “It’s gone way too far. So I drive to Geneva and decide to find the parents one way or another.”
“I went to Geneva…door to door…literally.”
“I depended on the parents to step in and be just that – parents.”
Michelle says she visited the homes of two of the Geneva youths involved in the rap video. At one house, she spoke with a father, who was apologetic. At the next house, Michelle found that one parent was working and another out of town, but she spoke with them both on the phone.
The next day, Saturday September 23rd, Michelle attended a JV football game in Waterloo, with Geneva the visiting team. Michelle says a young man she didn’t recognize as a Waterloo student sat behind her on the bleachers and proceeded to yell obscenities and derogatory sexual comments Lisa and her friends, who were sitting near Michelle. After being confronted by Michelle and other parents, the boy left.
Later that day, Michelle continued knocking on doors in Geneva, and spoke with the parents of one other young man. But her search for rest of the parents came up empty.
“I tried every other house but they knew I was coming and no one would answer,” said Michelle.
At this point, due to the severity of the threats, Michelle and the mother of another girl named in the video decided to go to the Geneva Police. Because Michelle was already in Geneva, she went to the police station.
“I drove to the PD and pushed the button,” she said. She told them why she was there, and an officer was sent out to meet her.
“He asked the problem and I told him everything. He looked through my phone and when he saw the pics of the guns, he enlarged them a few times . He asked names but only wrote down mine, Lisa’s and (the boy who posted the gun photos and video).”
Michelle gave the officer the phone number and address of the boy who had posted the photos and video of guns. She said the officer then “told me he would call me and let me know. He cut me off numerous times and rushed me.”
That evening, Geneva hosted in a varsity football game on the Hobart and William Smith campus. Michelle, her nephew and daughter sat by themselves. At one point, Michelle says a young boy approached and told Michelle (not Lisa),”that girl said she will pay me $5 to slap you in the face.” Later, a teenage girl (age 17) followed Michelle and her family members to their car, shouting obscenities and threats.
Michelle says the school resource officer saw this incident. “Numerous people saw this including (School Resource) Officer Arroyo,” said Michelle.
“He did and said nothing.”
Three days later, according to Michelle, the Geneva officer who spoke with her a few days earlier called back.
Two Different Police Departments, Two Different Responses
On September 26th, Michelle says the police officer told her they had investigated, but couldn’t find the address of the boy who posted the gun photos and videos. Michelle said she told him, “I gave it to you.”
According to Michelle, the officer told her that the police department was going to let the school handle the issue, because “one of these kids is related to a Geneva police officer, another is related to an administrative employee in the Geneva School District, and one has a relative on city council.”
Michelle says she asked the officer, “What does that mean?” and he replied that “(the GPD) aren’t going to do anything here” and that she should “do (herself) a favor and go elsewhere.”
And that’s when Michelle says she drove directly to the Waterloo Police Station. Once there, she says she spoke with an officer who was attentive and accommodating.
“He wrote everything down and saw all the same photos…the gun photos as well. He suggested I go to the Waterloo School Resource Officer,” says Michelle. She said the officer stated that a Sergeant from Waterloo PD would be contacting Geneva PD.
Michelle says she called the Geneva School District main number and asked to speak with Officer Arroyo. He was unavailable so she left a message.
“I’m scared for my safety and freedom.”
The next day, September 27th, Michelle says she received calls from the Waterloo Schools and the Waterloo School Resource Officer, describing both callers as “very concerned and helpful.”
That afternoon, Michelle discovered that she missed two calls and one voicemail from a Geneva Police Department detective. She returned the call and left a voicemail.
The next day, September 28th, Michelle says the officer told her that he was calling because “multiple families” had accused Michelle of harassment. According to Michelle, Detective Choffin stated that she was on one family’s home surveillance footage at least six times, threatening and harassing them. Michelle said Choffin told her that it the accusers claimed that Michelle had brought her nephew (who had a full leg cast at the time) to fight their son.
Michelle said she knew the detective didn’t have that kind of evidence, and says she called the detective “a liar.” Michelle says Choffin laughed and threatened to arrest her for criminal trespass and aggravated harassment. She said that he warned her to stay at least 20 feet from her accusers, and that she should leave if they ever show up at the same place as Michelle. Michelle says she told Choffin that she wouldn’t comply and that he laughed and again threatened her with arrest. She says she told him not to call anymore, and he told her “you’ve been warned.”
When, according to Michelle, she asked Choffin how to file a complaint against a police officer, he told her “start at the bottom of the ladder” and laughed.
“He arrested my sister a few years ago and has made it clear he hates my family,” Michelle says. “When I told him that he laughed. I’m scared for my safety and freedom because of this officer. He makes things happen frequently. Its a lie, I went to each parent one time and one time only. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“They think they will scare me away”
The next day, September 29th, Michelle’s older daughter texted from school and said she had been called to the guidance office. Moments later, the same daughter called in distress, and said there was a woman from CPS (Child Protective Services) there to talk to her, and asked Michelle to come and get her.
Michelle says she rushed to the school, “signed her (oldest daughter) out and spoke to the principal with both daughters present and their Dad on speaker phone. He says he is also concerned.”
Michelle says that Lisa later spoke with the CPS worker, who asked about videos that purported to show Lisa fighting people from Geneva, which Lisa knew nothing about. Later, according to Michelle, the CPS worker visited her at home, and Michelle explained the bullying situation. The worker asked Michelle to email all the information, which Michelle did.
The next day, September 30th, Michelle says that her step daughter had all of her social media accounts hacked. Someone had changed her profile photos to vaginas.
Michelle says she called Waterloo Police and filed a report.
The next day, October 1st, Apple sent a message stating that the accounts were hacked by someone in Geneva, NY.
The next day, October 2nd, Michelle emails the school superintendent and asks for a meeting.
The next day, October 3rd, the superintendent responds and refers Michelle to School Resource Officer Arroyo. Michelle responds via email.
That same day, Waterloo junior varsity and varsity soccer teams had home games. Neither game was against Geneva, yet Michelle says that one of the students from Geneva involved in harassing Lisa showed up with her mother.
This mother and student, according to Michelle, are related to a Geneva police officer. They never approached Michelle but Michelle still reported it to the school’s athletic director.
The next day, October 4th at 1:00pm, Michelle says she got a message from Lisa’s soccer coach that all games against Geneva had been cancelled.
That evening, on the advice of her lawyer, Michelle came to the Geneva City Council meeting and spoke during public comment:
Michelle has also contacted her state legislators.
When it came time for her to fill out a complaint against Detective Choffin, she couldn’t find a complaint form on the police department’s website. She didn’t feel safe going to the police department to get the form herself so she sent someone on her behalf. She said this person was asked his name and other questions about why he wanted the report.
Michelle now has the police complaint form, which she says she’ll complete and send it certified mail to the GPD, with copies also sent to “the Waterloo PD, the school district, state legislators, New York State Police, my attorney, and it will be posted on line.”
Michelle also says she is contacting the NYS Department of Education and “parents who have lost their children from suicide due to school or cyber bullying.
On October 11, one week after Michelle gave him her contact information after he offered to meet with her to discuss the issue, Geneva City Manager Matt Horn called to schedule a meeting with Michelle.
“I understand kids will be kids, but this has gone too far,” says Michelle. “I know deep down that I opened Pandora’s box. I have had numerous people message me about bullying in the schools and police not doing anything and the district not caring. I printed their policy handbook which I’ve given out. Those are New York State education laws being broken. That’s a crime and Geneva PD knows all about it. I am open to any feedback I can get and my main goal is to be heard by NYS government and to have people be held accountable just as you or I would.”
“They think they will scare me away,” continues Michelle. “Their mistake. I do not care how long this takes, who judges me, or who likes me. I care that my children see the big picture and learn how to be strong adults. I care that no child is harmed or commits suicide because of the lack of concern by the adults. I have nothing to hide. I am not ashamed of my past because it all made me the person I am today. Everyone has a past and I’m sure the further this goes, they will see that I don’t intimidate easily. I have no shame. I don’t so much as drink now. There is nothing they can do to me except lie and I am prepared.”