OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A student in a wheelchair who was seen on surveillance footage being repeatedly slapped by a Northern California high school security officer bears some responsibility for the incident, the security officer's attorney said.
The student had a history of discipline problems and spit on and antagonized his client, attorney Nabiel Ahmed told reporters after a court hearing for Marchell Mitchell on Monday.
"It is conceivable that if my client was acting in self-defense, based upon an aggressive student and a known aggressive student, that his actions may have been, maybe not morally acceptable. However, it may have been justified," he said.
Mitchell, 23, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of corporal injury to a child.
The May 19 attack at Oakland High School was caught on surveillance footage that shows Mitchell wheeling the student down a hallway, leaning down toward him and then winding up and striking him three times before pushing him to the ground. He appears ready to strike the student another time before another officer grabs his arm and pushes him away.
The student, 17-year-old Francisco Martinez, has cerebral palsy and was handcuffed at the time.
A second video shows Mitchell kicking the student and dragging him into an elevator earlier.
School officials have said Mitchell had been encouraging students lingering in a hallway to go to class that morning and began wheeling Martinez when Martinez either refused or was slow to move on.
The student attempted to slap away Mitchell's hands, prompting Mitchell to handcuff him, school principal Matin Abdel-Qawi said in a letter to parents. Mitchell was continuing to wheel the student to class when the student spit on him and Mitchell attacked, the principal said.