Things That Matter

This Officer Attacked A Student For Taking Too Many Milks And Now He’s Been Forced To Resign

Following the release of footage showing a school resource officer wrestling and restraining an 11-year-old girl in tears, the officer has resigned. The video sparked national outrage about the use of excessive force on a child. 

According to Vox, on August 27 at Messa View Middle School in New Mexico, Zachary Christensen of the Farmington Police Department pushed the 11-year-old girl into the side of the school building causing her to slam to the ground in an attempt to force the girl’s arm’s behind her. 

Footage shows what many believe to be the use of excessive force.

A recording of the officer’s conduct was captured through his bodycam after it fell on the ground. In the video, the girl can be heard crying and begging the officer to let her go. Christensen screams at her, “stop resisting.” 

“I’m not resisting,” the sixth-grader says. “Get off of me — you’re hurting me.”

Christensen alleges that the girl violated the rules after she stood on a school bus, took “too many” milk cartons at the school cafeteria, and picked at a sign that was taped to a door. The former resource officer also falsely claimed that she assaulted the school principal. 

The video shows school officials intervene to try to stop the officer. He refuses.

In the video, the officer continues to wrestle with the girl despite warnings from school officials who say it is unnecessary. 

“She is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” a school official says in the video. “You are not going to use excessive force to get this done.” 

Christensen responds by saying, “we’re not excessive,” as he holds the girl down to the ground. 

A longer video shows the officer falsely accusing the 11-year-old girl of assault. 

The police department released a longer, 77-minute, video of the body camera footage. In the video, Christensen is heard recalling the 11-year-old girl’s recent antics like disrupting class and standing on the bus. It also shows the officer accusing the student of assaulting him and other school staff. The Washington Post says an internal investigation found his claims to be false.  

In another moment, Christensen is seen following the student who he says is, “refusing to do anything that anyone says” and that “this has been an ongoing issue.” He is heard asking for approval to detain the student, saying, “then I can put her in handcuffs.” 

When he and the principal found the 11-year-old picking at a sign on the taped door, he threatened to arrest her.

“If you destroy it, it’s called criminal damage to property,” he said, yelling at her, in the footage. “I’m going to charge you with criminal damage to property. Yeah, you’re going to go to jail for 50 cents. Yeah, plus resisting, plus disrupting the education process.”

Christensen seemingly lost it on the child when she swept away the principal’s hand from a door. 

“You’re not going to assault the principal,” Christensen said as he shoved her against the building. He wrestled with her for almost three minutes before letting her go. 

The police department says they will take disciplinary action against Christensen. 

Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe says the girl suffered a mild concussion as well as scrapes and bruises. 

“Like many of you, I was shocked and angry when I watched this video,” Hebbe said in a statement. “We value our relationship with our community and will continue to work hard to maintain the public’s confidence in our department.”

Christensen resigned after an internal investigation determined he did not comply with standard policies. He was slapped with two violations including “unsatisfactory performance” and “violating use of force policy.” The department also reassigned and demoted Christensen’s supervisor. 

The girl’s family takes legal action.

The girl’s family has hired attorney Mark Curnutt to initiate legal action against the school and the City of Farmington. They believe the video footage disproves the officer’s accusations that the 11-year-old committed any crimes. 

“She’s an 11-year-old girl and it’s a shock to the system to see that this is a thing that can occur at a school by a certified peace officer,” Curnutt said. “When you have a situation where there’s a report that says a felony is committed, another felony is committed, another felony is committed — and then you review the factual documentation you have of that through the video and it doesn’t add up, there must be a level of accountability.”

While the officer has not been criminally charged, his case has been referred to the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office where he could face potential charges. 

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