Student: Girl slammed to ground was trying to break up fight

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2017 7:30 PM
Student: Girl slammed to ground was trying to break up fight

ROLESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A student who was slammed to the ground by a police officer at a North Carolina high school was trying to break up a fight involving her sister, said the 15-year-old who posted video of the incident on social media.

Ahunna Akpuda recorded a brief video of an officer surrounded by students at Rolesville High School. The officer lifts and drops a girl on her left side, then pulls her to her feet and leads her away. Akpuda said two girls had been fighting, including the sister of the girl who was slammed to the floor.

She says the officer arrived a few seconds after the girl arrived to break up the fight.

"He drags her farther away from the actual fight after it was broken up," said Akpuda, who spoke with The Associated Press on the phone Wednesday, along with her mother. "That's when he proceeds to lift her up and slam her down to the ground."

The girl who tried to break up the fight seemed "confused about why he was pulling her and restraining her," Akpuda said. The video doesn't show what led up to or followed the episode

Her mother, Pam Akpuda, said she doesn't think the officer, identified by town officials as Ruben De Los Santos, should be allowed to return to the school.

"I don't feel comfortable with him going back in the school," she said. "If he's fired, so be it. At the least, he needs to be reassigned."

De Los Santos is on paid administrative leave, the Rolesville police chief has said. Police Chief Bobby Langston told town commissioners Tuesday that he's reviewing the incident, which he said began as a fight between two female students Tuesday morning.

The officer is Hispanic and the female student in the video is black, Mayor Frank Eagles said.

The mother of the girl seen slammed to the floor says she's pulled both of her daughters out of the North Carolina high school they were attending.

Desiree Harrison told WRAL-TV (http://bit.ly/2j67LCo) on Wednesday that she also has hired an attorney after seeing the video recorded Tuesday at Rolesville High School. She did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.

The video has prompted the state's largest school district to take a fresh look at standards for officers assigned to work in schools. Wake County school officials will review the memorandum of understanding that places an armed police officer in every high school and some middle schools, district spokeswoman Lisa Luten said Wednesday.

The review will include "determining if changes need to be made to the agreement," she said in an email.

Rolesville High School Principal Dhedra Lassiter said in a statement posted on the school's website Tuesday that she is "deeply concerned" about what she saw in the video.

De Los Santos has been assigned to the school since it opened in 2013, Eagles said. About 2,200 students in grades nine through 12 attend the school.

Wake County schools don't have their own police force so the district contracts with local police to place school resource officers on campuses.

Under the agreement, school resource officers can provide security, offer advice and act as law enforcement officers to address criminal matters or when there's "an imminent threat to health or safety." Their multiple duties also include acting as role models and providing information about community agencies that can help young people and families.

The agreement allows them to use force but it cannot be "excessive, arbitrary or malicious."

In addition to the Twitter video, Eagles said all Rolesville police officers received body cameras in August, and officials will review any video from the school's security cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union has defended students in other confrontations with police officers working in their schools, such as the case of a girl who refused to surrender her cellphone at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina in October 2015. School officials called in a sheriff's deputy who flipped her backward in her desk-chair, then tossed her across a classroom.

The video sparked national outrage and reviews of whether officers should be involved in school discipline that doesn't involve criminal behavior. The deputy was fired.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc