Students, community members and activists plan to march roughly two miles from Helix Charter High School to the La Mesa Police Department Wednesday afternoon to protest the actions of a school resource officer who twice slammed a handcuffed female student to the ground last week on the La Mesa campus.
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Video of the Friday afternoon encounter emerged on social media over the weekend, sparking a student walkout Monday morning protesting the rough treatment of the 17-year-girl, who police said sustained scratches on her face but did not require treatment from medics.
Students and protesters plan to meet outside the high school at 3 p.m. and march east down University Avenue, arriving at the police station about 4 p.m.
La Mesa police officials have promised to conduct a thorough review. On Tuesday, officials said the officer was reassigned to another division and will not be working on any school campuses at least until the internal department investigation is complete.
Aeiramique Blake, a community organizer and activist whose sister attends Helix, and who is acting as a spokesperson for the family of the student involved, said temporarily reassigning the officer is not enough.
“We’re asking that he is suspended,” Blake said in a Facebook video, noting that Wednesday afternoon’s protest march was planned to “put police on notice — we know the officer was reassigned, not suspended.”
At Monday’s walkout, Blake said the officer “never needs to work with kids again.” In her Facebook video, she called for Helix and all area high schools to eventually pull all resource officers off campus. She also called for San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan to review the incident.
“Summer Stephan, we will come for you if you do not press charges against this officer,” Blake said.
The incident between the officer and the 17-year-old girl happened about 1:20 p.m. Friday when Helix staff called police for assistance to deal with the student, who was on “suspended status” and would not comply with directions to leave school grounds, La Mesa police Chief Walt Vasquez said. The officer tried to get the student to leave voluntarily, then ordered her to do so, but when she refused, the officer arrested her and placed her in handcuffs, he 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,” Vasquez said in a statement. “To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground.”
Videos posted on Facebook don’t clearly show what led up to the slams, but both show the officer twice throw the girl across his body from left to right, with her upper body slamming onto the concrete first. After they get up after the first slam, the girl appears to lean away from the officer and he slams her again, pins her on the ground 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 events leading up to the slams, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune on the weekend that the student was allowed to be on campus while assigned to in-school suspension for tardiness issues.
The 17-year-old stood up for herself when an instructor accused her of being on drugs, Blake said. The instructor searched the girl’s backpack, finding no drugs, but the teen had pepper spray, which she said she carried for protection because she rides the trolley to school from southeast San Diego.
The teacher told her she’d have to leave campus because she brought a weapon, Blake said. When the girl refused to leave, the instructor called police.
“No matter what was done or not done, that was not the appropriate way to handle a young lady,” Blake told the newspaper. “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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