A former American River College student and actor in several ARC theater productions was arrested Jan. 22 on six felony charges including distribution of child pornography and extortion, according to a report made by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
Christian Brian Hirtzel, who attended ARC from summer 2012 until fall 2014, was originally reported to school administration in mid-2014 by two girls with statements from two others.
The other charges included communication with a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense, knowingly using a minor to assist with an obscene matter, computer crime or access without permission to defraud or control and attempted extortion. His bail was set at $100,000.
One of the accusers came forward to say that Hirtzel had stolen photos of her from her email and threatened to post them online if she didn’t send him more nude photos or get on Skype so he could watch her masturbate.
In accordance with the Associated Press guidelines, the Current does not publish the names of sex crime accusers or victims.
“He harassed me relentlessly for a month and a half,” she said. “It started to trickle down once he knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me, but he would keep checking in in weird ways to let me know he was still around.”
After the harassment continued over the course of a few months, she said that she found out that there were other women going through a similar situation, and they were able to talk and realize that they were all dealing with the same person.
“We went to anyone who would listen (and) the campus police are the ones who picked up the investigation and gave it the attention it deserved,” she said. “It was because of them that he was caught and punished.”
She said that several professors also knew and didn’t believe it because he was a good student, but also said that she didn’t blame them because of the level of the accusation.
“Even after I knew it was him, I still had to see him around and have everyone whisper about it behind my back,” she said.
She added that Hirtzel was also getting in trouble for doing the same thing while he was in high school.
“I think what he ultimately got in trouble for though was for all the stuff he did involving minors,” she said. “He had stuff on his computer from years before (and) that got him into more trouble.”
Now that Hirtzel is in custody, she said that it was a long process but “the truth eventually raised to the top.”
Los Rios police officer Amy Freeman and ARC public information officer Scott Crow both confirmed that there was an ongoing investigation, but due to the nature of the case, they could not release any details.
Crow, however, was able to confirm that there were multiple accusers who placed a complaint with the school and that Hirtzel was a student at the time.
Associated Vice President of instruction Lisa Lawrenson, who is in charge of handling discrimination and harassment complaints, said that although she can’t talk about specific cases, there is a procedure she follows for any claim.
“There is a case-to-case basis in any situation, but there are general procedures online that are open to the public,” Lawrenson said. “If a student felt threatened, we would follow the threat assessment process.”
The threat assessment process involves contacting the Los Rios Police for any incident involving an attack, assault or menace of a faculty, staff, or student member.
The Current will update this story as more information becomes available.
Itzin Alpizar contributed to this story