California lawmaker arrested on child cruelty suspicion

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California state lawmaker Joaquin Arambula was arrested Monday on suspicion of misdemeanor child cruelty, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

The arrest came after officials at Dailey Elementary Charter School discovered an injury on a child who came into an office Monday afternoon, Dyer said. He did not describe the injury or Arambula’s relationship to the child. He was cited for willful cruelty to a child,

Arambula, a Democratic state assemblyman, is married with three young daughters.

“Joaquin is a committed father who wants what is best for his children,” his spokeswoman Felicia Matlosz said in a Tuesday statement. “He is fully supportive of the process, which will show he is a loving and nurturing father.”

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Arambula is a former emergency room physician who won a 2016 special election to represent part of Fresno and the surrounding rural areas. His father Juan Arambula was a state assemblyman in the early 2000s.

Officials at the elementary school reported the child’s injury to child protective services, which called Fresno police, Dyer said. Officers called Arambula and his wife, Elizabeth, who both arrived at the scene.

The child described how the injury occurred and said Arambula inflicted it, Dyer said. The police determined the injury happened Sunday evening. Arambula was cooperative and cordial, but he did not provide a statement to officers based on advice from his attorney, Dyer said.

Officers were “confident that a crime had occurred” and arrested Arambula on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child, Dyer said. He was taken in a patrol car to police headquarter, finger-printed, photographed and then released because his crime is a misdemeanor. The injury did not rise to the level of a felony.

All school district employees in California are considered “mandated reporters” under state law, meaning they are required to report known or suspected child abuse. They are not responsible for determining if an allegation is valid, according to the state Department of Education’s website. They are expected to report if abuse or neglect is suspected or a child shares information leading them to believe it took place.

They are then required to call law enforcement or child protective services, and law enforcement is required to investigate. A physical injury inflicted on a child by someone else intentionally is considered child abuse or neglect.

Officials at the elementary school and Fresno Unified School District did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson contributed.

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