Students, community members and activists marched from Helix Charter High School to La Mesa Police Department headquarters Wednesday to protest the actions of a police officer who twice slammed a handcuffed female student to the ground while arresting her last week at the University Avenue campus.
Video of the rough law enforcement encounter emerged on social media over the weekend, sparking a student walkout Monday morning protesting the treatment of the 17-year-girl.
The teen sustained scratches on her face during the scuffle on Friday afternoon but did not require hospital care due to the encounter, authorities said.
La Mesa police officials have promised to conduct a thorough review. On Tuesday, the department announced that the involved lawman, school-resource Officer Scott Wulfing, was reassigned to another division and would not work on any campuses pending completion of an internal investigation.
Wulfing has been a member of the agency for nine years, LMPD Lt. Chad Bell said.
Hundreds of Helix High School students staged a walkout today, in protest of an incident where a La Mesa police officer body slammed a teen to the ground. @MEBurks has an update on the investigation & what the school has to say. https://t.co/sQyvVmPEP4 pic.twitter.com/VGrOrxDMxe
— KPBS News (@KPBSnews) January 23, 2018
Aeiramique Blake, a community organizer serving as a spokesperson for the family of the arrested girl, contended that temporarily reassigning the officer was not enough.
“We’re asking that he is suspended,” Blake said in a Facebook video, noting that Wednesday afternoon’s protest march was meant to “put police on notice — we know the officer was reassigned, not suspended.”
During the earlier school walkout, Blake said Wulfing “never needs to work with kids again.” In her social-media video, she called for Helix High and all other area secondary schools to eventually pull all resource officers off campus. She also called on the county’s top prosecutor to review the incident.
“(District Attorney) Summer Stephan, we will come for you if you do not press charges against this officer,” Blake said.
The clash between Wulfing and the student, according to La Mesa police Chief Walt Vasquez, happened after a Helix High staffer called police for assistance to deal with the student, who was suspended and refused orders to leave the school grounds.
Wulfing tried in vain to get the girl to leave voluntarily before forcibly tackling and handcuffing her, Vasquez said.
“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,” the chief asserted in a prepared statement. “To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground.”
The Facebook videos show Wulfing twice throwing the girl across his body from left to right and onto the concrete-paved ground. Following the first slam, the girl appears to lean away from the officer, after which he throws her down again and pins her with his upper body for several seconds, then rolls her to her side and pulls her to her feet.
“After the student agreed to quit resisting and attempting to escape, the officer assisted her up and walked her to his patrol vehicle,” Vasquez said.
Blake disputed the official rationale for the arrest, saying the girl had been allowed to be on campus while assigned to in-school suspension for tardiness issues.
According to Blake, a teacher accused the girl of being intoxicated, then searched her backpack, finding no drugs but discovering pepper spray, which the teen said she carried for protection.
The instructor told her she’d have to leave campus because she was carrying a “weapon,” then called the police when she refused, Blake said.
“No matter what was done or not done, that was not the appropriate way to handle a young lady,” Blake said. “The community is completely outraged.”
The school is expected to hold a community forum before the end of the month.
–City News Service
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