8-year-old boy with disabilities assaulted and pinned facedown by Wyoming school officer, lawsuit says #8yearold #boy #disabilities #assaulted #pinned #facedown #Wyoming #school #officer #lawsuit

An 8-year-old boy with ADHD was allegedly pinned facedown on the ground and told “I should be taking you to jail!” by a school resource officer at his Wyoming elementary school, leaving him bleeding on the face and traumatized, a new federal lawsuit claims.

The second grade boy, who was identified by the initials J.D., did nothing to provoke the use of force, according the complaint filed Nov. 27 in the U.S. District of Wyoming said.

The incident unfolded on Feb. 15, 2022, at Freedom Elementary School, located at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, where J.D.’s father was serving.

The suit was filed against Deputy Benjamin Jacquot and his employer, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office. It claims the department and officer violated the boy’s rights and a state policy against use of prone-position restraints in schools.

After the incident, Jacquot allegedly deleted portions of the assault from his body camera and pulled the boy’s private school records, but was never disciplined by his department, the complaint contends.

The incident at Freedom Elementary School on Feb. 15, 2022.
The incident at Freedom Elementary School on Feb. 15, 2022.Laramie Sheriff’s Office

The alleged assault

On Feb. 15, 2022, J.D., who was diagnosed with a neurodivergent disability, went to the school principal’s office for his lunch recess — something he had been doing for the past four days as part of his individualized education plan (IEP) and behavior plan, the complaint said.

An IEP is a program in public schools to give students with disabilities specialized instruction and services.

His teacher and the principal spoke with J.D. about comments he had made to the adult cashier in the lunchroom and whether he should apologize, the suit contends.

Deputy Jacquot’s body cam captured the first five minutes of their talk showing a “calm, peaceful and appropriate interaction” between J.D., his principal and his teacher.

Then the footage appeared to be deleted. The school’s principal, Chad Delbridge, described the assault, which appeared to be deleted from the footage, in a written report.

When J.D. stood up and began walking away from the principal to return to class, deputy Jacquot “grabbed J.D. by the arm,” the suit said, citing Delbridge’s account.

Jacquot then allegedly “forcibly wrestled J.D. into a nearby conference room using an armlock,” repeatedly slammed J.D. face down onto the floor, and climbed on top of the 68-pound boy to pin him facedown. The boy was coughing and struggling to breathe, the complaint said.

When Jacquot’s bodycam footage picked back up, it showed J.D. pinned underneath him as the child screamed and cried and was seen with blood on his face.

In the footage, J.D. repeatedly said “I give up”and in response the deputy screamed, “No, its all me! Do you understand me! I should be taking you to jail!” the complaint claimed.

The suit said the principal and teacher never requested the deputy to get involved.

The use of the prone restraint position is banned in schools under Wyoming Administrative Code. Grabbing a child by the arm is also a violation of Wyoming public school policy. 

‘As a law enforcement officer, that’s my primary function’

The principal called J.D.’s father, Ishmael DeJesus, to pick him up after the incident.

When DeJesus asked the deputy why he put his hands on J.D. when he wasn’t harming anyone, Jacquot allegedly responded, “because, as a law enforcement officer, that’s my primary function,” the filing said.

However, prior to the assault, Jacquot knew J.D. had a neurodivergent disability and also knew about his IEP that stated that he needed de-escalation, patience and waiting when it came to potential problems.

After the incident, Jacquot allegedly went to his car and deleted parts of his body cam footage that showed the “most violent portion of the assault,” the complaint claims. He also accessed J.D.’s school records after the incident, and put excerpts of his private and protected school records into his incident report for the sheriff’s office.

In May, the Laramie County School District Superintendent told J.D.’s mother that Jacquot had no need to access those records and his access was hence restricted, the complaint said.

The suit claims that neither the body cam footage nor the post-incident report provide any explanation of behavior from J.D. that would have warranted use of force.

Under the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office use of force policy, it’s only permitted when necessary to control a detained or arrested individual and to protect themselves or others from harm. The suit said that at no point was J.D. suspected of committing a crime or posing a danger to others.

Despite his use of force, Jacquot was not disciplined or retrained by the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department, the complaint said. Laramie County told J.D.’s mother the sheriff’s office believed Jacquot’s actions were “appropriate and justified,” the complaint said.

NBC News has reached out to Jacquot and the sheriff’s office for comment.

J.D. moves states and has ongoing psychological care

The Laramie County School District 1 told NBC News that Jacquot no longer serves as a school resource officer in any of their schools.

“The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the employment/assignments of their deputies. We recently became aware of the lawsuit and have no further comment at this time,” Community Relations Director Mary Quast said. 

J.D. hasn’t been the same since the alleged assault, the lawsuit contends.

After the ordeal, his mother took him to a local medical facility for treatment for his physical injuries. 

Since then, J.D.’s family was relocated by the Air Force to a base in a different state, J.D. now attends a school for children with emotional disturbances, and he continues to undergo psychiatric and psychological treatment. 

“J.D. has developed a fear and mistrust of law enforcement as a result of the assault; and J.D.’s psychological injuries from the assault, at this time, appears be permanent,” the complaint said.  

The lawsuit is based on counts of unreasonable seizure and excessive force in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments, disability-based discrimination, and violations of the Rehabilitation Act, which forbids programs —including the sheriff’s office — that receive federal financial assistance to discriminate against individuals with a disability.

It seeks compensatory damages and a trial by jury.

Matthew Haltzman, an attorney for the DeJesus Family, told NBC News Tuesday, “The child’s family is still putting the pieces of their son’s life together almost two years after the event.”

“A part of that rebuilding and healing process is going to require Deputy Jacquot and his department to take accountability for what they did to this child, his parents and the community at large,” he added.

#8yearold #boy #disabilities #assaulted #pinned #facedown #Wyoming #school #officer #lawsuit

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