La Mesa, CA – A school resource officer is under fire after a video was released online that showed him slamming a female student to the ground and then handcuffing her, while two other men stood nearby and did nothing to intervene.
After the video went viral, the La Mesa Police Department responded in a statement, claiming that the 17-year-old girl was “arrested by a La Mesa Police School Resource Officer for refusing to obey a lawful order to leave school grounds and resisting arrest.”
The department claimed that the video released online showed a small segment of an encounter in which “Helix High School staff requested the assistance of the School Resource Officer to remove a student, who was on suspended status and non-compliant with staff directions to leave the campus.”
When the student refused to leave, the department claimed that the officer then made the lawful choice to arrest her:
“The officer arrested and placed the student in handcuffs and began to walk her towards the school office. As they were walking, the student became non-compliant on two separate occasions and made an attempt to free herself by pulling away from the officer. To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground. After the student agreed to quit resisting and attempting to escape, the officer assisted her up and walked her to his patrol vehicle. She was transported to the La Mesa Police Department.”
However, witnesses have told a different story regarding the events that led up to the scene that was captured on video. Speaking on behalf of the girl’s family, Aeiramique Blake told the San Diego Union-Tribune that her sister is a student at the high school who filmed the incident.
Blake said that the problems started when the girl, who said she was anemic, told her teacher that she was not feeling well. The teacher responded by accusing the girl of “being on drugs,” and then sent her to in-school suspension for tardiness.
The teacher also demanded to search the girl’s backpack. The teacher did not find any drugs in the backpack, but Blake claimed that she found pepper spray and demanded to know why the girl had it.
According to the Union-Tribune, “The student said she traveled with pepper spray for protection since she took the trolley from southeast San Diego to school every day.”
It should be noted that this is not an uncommon occurrence, as many young women often carry pepper spray as a means of self-defense when they are too young to legally carry a concealed handgun.
However, the teacher argued that pepper spray is a weapon, and the girl should be forced to leave school because she had it in her backpack. Blake claimed that the teacher then called the school resource officer for assistance, and while the girl did not refuse handcuffs, she did refuse to leave campus, because she “felt the instructor’s behavior was discriminatory.”
While it does not appear that the girl was exhibiting violent behavior, or that she was attempting to harm the teacher in any way, the incident does raise questions about why the teacher felt the need to go through her backpack, and then use its contents against her, even when she did not find any drugs.
The actions of the school resource officer are also questionable, because although it does not appear that the girl was a threat to him or anyone around him, the officer slammed her to the ground and used the weight of his body to hold her down, while two men stood nearby and watched—refusing to intervene.
Family, friends and other community members are outraged by the footage that surfaced online from the incident, and Fox 5 San Diego reported that several people have called for the officer to be removed from his position as a school resource officer for the district. Students are also reportedly planning a walk-out on Monday morning in an attempt to demand that the school take action.
“No matter what was done or not done, that was not the appropriate way to handle a young lady. The community is completely outraged,” Blake told the Union-Tribune.