Friday, May 30, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco Bay Area school district has fired a high school security officer who faces a felony charge after he repeatedly slapped a handcuffed, wheelchair-bound student suffering from cerebral palsy and dumped him onto the floor, authorities said.
The May 19 attack at Oakland High School was caught on surveillance footage that shows the officer 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. The officer appears ready to strike the student another time before another officer grabs his arm and pushes him away.
The district identified the officer as Marchell Mitchell and said on Thursday he was fired immediately after the incident. Mitchell pleaded not guilty on May 22 to a charge of corporal injury to a child, said Stephanie Chan, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. Chan said she did not know whether he had an attorney.
Mitchell has posted $10,000 bail, according to county records online. A working telephone number for Mitchell couldn't be found.
The officer, later identified as Mitchell, was encouraging students lingering in a hallway to go to class on the morning of May 19 and began wheeling the victim when he either refused or was slow to move on, school Principal Matin Abdel-Qawi said in a letter to parents.
The student attempted to slap away Mitchell's hands, prompting Mitchell to handcuff him, Abdel-Qawi said. Mitchell was continuing to wheel the student to class when the student spit on him and Mitchell attacked, the principal said.
"I'm shocked and deeply hurt by this behavior and apologize on behalf of the staff at Oakland High," Abdel-Qawi said in the May 20 letter.
The student, Francisco Martinez, 17, told KTVU-TV he suffered a scar under his chin. He said he had been going to therapy to strengthen his legs so he could try to walk.
Martinez acknowledged spitting at the security officer, but he said he was handcuffed and had no other way to defend himself.
"He slapped me. He hit me so hard, it threw me out of my chair," he told the station.
Mitchell was a not a sworn peace officer and did not carry a weapon, Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said. He was hired last November and had passed a background check that showed he had no prior convictions or arrests.
The district is reviewing its policies about how security officers interact with students and plans to include a discussion about de-escalating conflict at an upcoming training session, Abdel-Qawi said.
AP Researcher Judith Ausuebel contributed to this report.