Farmington, NM — A veteran Farmington police officer was allowed to quietly resign in a move to escape accountability after horrifying video footage showed him attacking an 11-year-old girl with special needs. At the time, he likely thought he got away, but thanks to pressure from accountability activists, former Farmington police officer Zachary Christensen is facing down a possible three year sentence.
Christensen pleaded no contest to a felony charge of child abuse and a misdemeanor battery charge after roughing up an 11-year-old student at school. As part of a plea deal, two other battery charges were dropped.
Originally, the case was referred to the district attorney who naturally declined to prosecute the officer. However, the state attorney general then stepped in and took up the case after receiving outside pressure.
"I was very concerned with the safety of our victim, who was a child, and I think this conviction sends a strong message that no one is above the law, but we need to set a very high standard of care that protects students on our school campuses," said Attorney General Hector Balderas.
In a corrupt twist, however, despite the conviction, Christensen still has his state certification to be a law enforcement officer.
The incident unfolded on August 27, 2019 but the officer's lapel camera video wasn't released until later. It is nothing short of disturbing as it shows the officer, who is much bigger than the girl, slamming her down on the concrete while abusing her.
“That’s not our standards. That’s not who we are,” said Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe in response to his officer in the video.
According to school officials, the girl had misbehaved in class and was waiting for her mother to come pick her up from school. As she waited in the lobby of the school, the officer wrongly accused her of assault and then attacked her.
As KOB reports, the day of the incident, school administrators can be seen on the lapel video following the girl around campus as she waits for her mom to pick her up from school.
“This morning, she went straight to the cafeteria. She took more milks than she was supposed to. She threw a milk on the ground,” said Officer Christensen in the lapel camera footage.
After savagely attacking the small girl, Officer Christensen attempted to claim in his report that "the child assaulted two school employees that morning." He claimed that one assault occurred when the girl walked past the assistant principal and brushes past him and the second occurred when the girl attempted to open the door and walked past the principal.
However, none of these charges against the girl would stick as the officer lacked any evidence of them.
Despite the girl not posing any threat to anyone, the officer attacked her anyway. As the video shows, he grabs the 11-year-old girl with special needs by the backpack and throws her to the ground. He then jumps on top of her, pinning her down for over six minutes as she screams in horror.
The entire time, the officer is yelling "stop resisting," as if this has any effect on a special needs child being attacked by a man twice her size.
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The situation became so unnerving that a school official was forced to step in and tell the officer to let the girl stand up.
“Officer Christensen – she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” said the school employee.
"No, she is!" Christensen replied, claiming the girl, half his size, is a threat to an armed man in a bullet proof vest.
Laughably, the cop would go on to write in his report that the 11-year-old girl "was very strong, stronger than I was.”
After the altercation lasted several more minutes, the school employee then demanded that the officer stop his attack, even using the term "excessive force."
“We’re not going to use excessive force,” the school employee said.
Naturally, the officer replied that "It's not excessive!"
But as the video shows, it was definitely excessive. Never once did the girl attempt to fight back. She was trying to comply, but the officer's weight on her body would not let her move in the position he was demanding. She even tried to explain this to him but to no avail.
After the incident, police were unable to find anything on which to charge the girl, so she was allowed to return to school as the officer was allowed to resign to escape accountability -- for a little while.
The girl and her mother have retained an attorney to file a lawsuit against the city of Farmington and the school.
“She’s an 11-year-old girl and it’s a shock to the system to see that this is a thing that can occur at a school by a certified peace officer,” attorney Mark Curnutt said.
Curnutt then pointed out the fact that the officer attempted to accuse the girl of committing multiple felonies, none of which actually took place.
“When you have a situation where there's a report that says a felony is committed, another felony is committed, another felony is committed -- and then you review the factual documentation you have of that through the video and it doesn't add up, there must be a level of accountability,” Curnutt said.
Below is this most disturbing video.