Rolando Velasquez wears baggy clothes, and he ran from the stabbing scene at Springbrook High School on Friday. But his parents say he was wrongfully arrested, the kind of person who would be too afraid to get caught up in a knife fight.
"They said he's in a gang," said his stepfather, Pablo Palacios, as he sat in his Silver Spring living room yesterday afternoon. "A person who is in a gang isn't afraid of anything. That is not Rolando. He doesn't have the capacity to fight."
The parents of two of the teenagers arrested in the stabbing -- Velasquez, 16, and Harris Hauffen, 17 -- spoke in separate interviews, saying their sons are not members of Mara Salvatrucha or any other street gang and that they were not involved in the stabbing.
They also said their sons were arrested partly because they were wearing baggy clothing, a style that is popular with teenagers and is also associated with gangs.
Montgomery County police said they had enough probable cause to arrest them.
"The police confused him with someone else because he was wearing baggy clothes," said Velasquez's mother, Julia Palacios. "He always wore baggy clothes because he was a little upset he was fat. He didn't wear clothes that are fitted."
Hauffen's mother, who spoke reluctantly and would not give her name, also said her son was targeted because he is Hispanic.
"They've accused him only because of his appearance, and there's no way to defend against that," she said, sitting at her dining room table and dabbing tears with a napkin.
She added: "This is killing me. A mother knows her children. He is very quiet -- very. He comes from an honest family."
On Saturday, Velasquez called his Silver Spring home from jail, where he has been since his arrest Friday. He told his mother that he was walking out of summer school when he saw a group of people flash knives and begin stabbing. At first, he stopped and looked, but then he became scared and ran.
Julia Palacios said she and her son had discussed MS-13 and other gangs because they have a presence at Montgomery Blair, the high school he attends during the school year. But she said she knows he had no part of it.
Pablo Palacios said he thinks once detectives continue their interviews and examine the evidence, his stepson will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"Why don't they get the knives first, check them for fingerprints, then figure out who is guilty?" he asked. "It's not right to just grab someone and arrest him without proper evidence."
But Lt. Eric Burnett, a county police spokesman, said investigators had enough information to make the arrests. "There is no doubt in my mind they had probable cause to arrest them for what happened on Friday," Burnett said.
The Palacioses said their son is a quiet teenager who likes cartoons, video games and boxing. They said that they raised him to be respectful and polite and that he has never gotten into trouble for fighting.
"When I go to his school, his teachers always say he is very respectful of adults," Julia Palacios said.
Pablo and Julia Palacios came separately to the United States from El Salvador looking for a better life. Julia gave birth to Rolando, her oldest, in 1989, two years after she moved to the Washington area.
She plans to attend her son's bail review hearing this afternoon, something she never imagined she would have to do.
"We'll find out if he can leave the jail," she said. "I have to look for a -- what do you call it? -- bail bondsman."