Officials at Modesto Christian School in California are still in shock after one of their star football players, 18-year-old Davion Dangelo Gates, was arrested Sunday on multiple counts of armed robbery and attempted robbery.
"We love Davion — we are stunned by the news," Modesto Christian School Superintendent and High School Principal Jonathan Burton told The Modesto Bee. "We're completely surprised, because this is not at all in line with the character he has shown here at school. We are still trying to make sense of it."
The report said Gates has played wide receiver and defensive back for the Modesto Christian High School football team and was also named to the publication's 2017 All-Stanislaus District Team for small-school defense. He was also among The Bee's "players to watch" in 2017.
"Gates rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season despite sharing carries with four-year standout Chris Brown. Gates finished his junior season with 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he averaged nearly 9.6 yards per carry," the publication noted.
In a news release, however, Ceres Police Department spokesman Sgt. Greg Yotsuya said Gates was charged with three counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery in connection with a string of incidents.
Officers responded to the QuikStop market on the 1300 block of Service Road at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday, when a clerk reported that someone had tried to get through the locked front door while the clerk was on break.
"When he got to the front door, no one was there," Yotsuya said. "The clerk felt this was suspicious, as customers usually wait for him to come to the door to unlock it."
Surveillance video showed a black male adult matching the description given by the clerk to police about the person who tried to enter the locked store. The clerk noted that the same person wearing a white mask also tried to enter the store the previous night while the store was locked around the same time.
"Officers decided to stay in the area to see if the suspect would return," Yotsuya explained. "Just under an hour later, a male matching the physical and clothing description from earlier was observed walking toward the front of the store."
When Gates saw the officers, he reportedly ran and dropped a handgun in the process. He was eventually held.
Yotsuya said investigators later linked Gates to "several other armed robberies of convenience stores throughout Ceres."
Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said this week that there is not enough evidence to connect him to those crimes.
"We hope indeed there is some error" and Gates is innocent, Burton noted, "but we also know the police are doing their job and carefully investigating. We're cooperating with the investigation, and our hearts and prayers are for Davion and his family and of course the victims of the robberies."
According to the Modesto Christian School website, the institution is "committed to the development of the whole child. Modesto Christian School alumni are young men and women who have a strong spiritual foundation, and critical thinkers who are prepared to be the Christian leaders of tomorrow."