ALBANY -- Attempting to quell public outcry over the lewd conduct arrest and subsequent suicide of a popular middle school teacher, Albany's police chief on Thursday released a detailed account of the case, confirming for the first time that multiple reported victims were involved and commending the girls for coming forward.
"In addition to the angst this matter has created in the community, investigations of this nature can be challenging and complex for police to navigate," Police Chief Mike McQuiston wrote in a three-page statement he said was issued in a spirit of transparency.
A relative found the sixth-grade teacher, James Izumizaki, 28, dead in his car on a San Lorenzo street Monday morning. McQuiston confirmed in his statement that the death was suicide. Izumizaki had been arrested Sept. 26 on suspicion of lewd acts with a former student, but formal charges were never filed.
"Because the investigation was ongoing, the decision to charge a criminal case was also pending," Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said Thursday.
McQuiston said the case remains under investigation, despite Izumizaki's death.
"The reported victims in this matter are minors," McQuiston said. "The nature of the crimes is under investigation and the manner in which this chain of events has unfolded (and continues to unfold) will manifest lifelong impacts on the victims."
The chief did not return messages for follow up comments, and he did not reveal in the statement how many accusers were involved. In the statement, McQuiston thanked the "victims and witnesses who have shown great courage and character by coming forward."
"The case has clearly left people hurt and confused by this tragic turn of events," he wrote. "The arrest of a popular educator and community member raises troubling questions, and his suicide leaves many questions unanswered."
Community members had been outspoken in their criticism of the department's handling of the case. Izumizaki had been a teacher and coach at Albany Middle School since 2007.
Several online comments on the Albany community news site Patch.com said police acted rashly in their arrest and found the teacher guilty in the "court of public opinion" before he was convicted of any crime.
Izumizaki, who lived in Albany, was placed on paid administrative leave when district officials learned from a parent that a former student had accused him of having an inappropriate relationship with her.
He was arrested on suspicion of committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 at his home on the morning of Sept. 26. The following day, he posted $10,000 bail and was released.
McQuiston said investigators worked quickly to prevent possible evidence tampering or the compromise or concealment of witnesses.
Police received a probable cause warrant for the teacher's arrest from an Alameda County Superior Court judge, the statement said, and police searched Izumizaki's home and cars. The statement did not discuss what was found.
A probable cause warrant can only be obtained if investigators can show there is "probable cause that the offense described in the declaration has been committed and that the defendant described therein has committed the offense," the statement said.
McQuiston said police will share with the school district any information discovered during their ongoing investigation if it "might help our school district colleagues better protect their students."
Additionally, the chief's statement said the department will "continue to investigate to ensure that any digital record created during the commission of a crime with a juvenile does not live on into perpetuity (as 21st century technology now seems to allow)."
It's unclear what McQuiston was referring to, but last month, a profanity-laced rap video in which the teacher makes a short appearance was posted on YouTube. The video includes a party with drinking, what appear to be underage girls, drug references and sexual themes. It was posted on YouTube on Sept. 13 and remains on the Internet "in memory of James I." The man who made the video was not available for comment and one of the rappers in the video declined to comment. It's unclear how Izumizaki was connected to those who made the video.
Izumizaki does not do anything illegal in the video and only speaks briefly, acting as if he's complaining about the noise during the party.
Police have not returned calls and emails for comment on the video. Albany school district Superintendent Marla Stephenson said in an email that the district does not have a "policy regarding teacher conduct outside their professional day."
She said she did not know about the video until Wednesday.