By Paul Kruze
Watch ECM news partner 10News Video of students speaking at Helix
Update January 24, 2018: La Mesa Police have identified the officer, Scott Wulfing, and indicated he is assigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation.
January 23, 2018 (La Mesa) -- A group of some 200 students at Helix Charter High School on Monday morning walked out of their classes and gathered in front of the school chanting “Justice for Bri” to protest the aggressive arrest of an allegedly unruly 17-year-old female student on Friday afternoon.
The officer forced the handcuffed African-American girl, who has not been identified, to the ground. The San Diego Union-Tribune today reports that the La Mesa Police Department's school resources officer for Helix has been reassigned and will not be working in any schools until an investigation is concluded.
As ECM reported, a 30-second video posted on social media shows part of the altercation that occurred after the student on administrative suspension refused multiple requests to leave campus, police indicated in a press release. When she didn’t cooperate, the school resource officer handcuffed her and led her to the school’s office, according to LMPD Chief Walt Vasquez. Vasquez says the student on two separate occasions did not listen and attempted to free herself by pulling away from the officer, who has not been identified.
To prevent the student from escaping, the officer slammed the handcuffed student to the ground. Witnesses say the officer forced her to the ground twice. After the student agreed to quit resisting or trying to escape, the officer assisted her up and they proceeded to his patrol vehicle.
According to police reports, the student suffered minor abrasions during the incident. She was evaluated by paramedics at the police station, who determined that her scrapes did not require treatment.
Flanked by local television media, a friend and spokesman for the student’s family, Aeiramique Meeka, opened the rally by saying that what happened was unacceptable.
“We are demanding that the officer be removed from all campuses. We are tired of our police departments justifying the injustice that take place in San Diego. We are not standing for it anymore,” she said. “These youths, the community, the parents is here today to stand with Bri and to stand with the rest of the youths that have experienced these injustices across San Diego County.”
She indicated that the student is a straight-A student and said police have been “inconsistent” in characterizing what led up to the officer's action.
According to the Union-Tribune, Meeka earlier the student was attending an in-school suspension for being tardy when she told her teacher she felt ill and suffers from anemia. According to Meeka, a teacher accused the girl of taking drugs and the student gave permission for her backpack to be searched. No drugs were found, but the teacher did find pepper spray, which is illegal for a minor to possessin California, so she was told to leave. another media outlet has indicated she reportedly carried pepper spray for self defense because she rides a trollely from southeast San Diego.
Several other speakers at the rally mirrored the words of a Helix High School senior student named Destiny who said, “For the actions which took place on our campus is not something I’m shocked by. If anything, I’m more heartbroken, because I’m used to this. As I’m used to police officers using their power to make someone feel useless and use excessive force. I’ve seen officers use excessive force my whole life.”
She added, “This protest is not about race. It isn’t about gender. It is about a police officer using excessive force on a teenage student. Watching the video, my heart broke. I watched it once and I watched it again to see the reality of it all.”
Another speaker, Richard Ambuko, said the police did not have to handcuff her and throw the her to the ground. “I am here for justice. I am here for justice reform. And I am here for that police officer to be fired with immediate effect,” he said.
Over the weekend, both the LMPD and Helix High School released statements attempting to quell the outrage which the incident has aroused.
ECM’s media partner, 10News, reports that the LMPD is in possession of the video and has said that it will be conducting a detailed review of the incident, as with all incidents involving force.
A statement from Helix High School’s Executive Director, Kevin Osborn, says that all incidents involving students or student disciplinary matters are confidential. “As such, Helix Charter High School is not at liberty to discuss information regarding student incidents. We want to assure the community that actions taken by the School are guided by what is lawful and in the best interests of Helix Charter High School students, staff, and school community."
Meeka says that the student's parents will be meeting with the administration and with attorneys.
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