The family of a 16-year-old girl in Florida who was body-slammed this week by a school resource officer is demanding the deputy be fired and arrested.
Cell phone video of the incident has been shared widely on social media, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who’s represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, has now taken on the case.
“The person who’s supposed to protect her is the person who brutalized her,” Crump said. “This is an issue especially in the African-American community because oftentimes we see them using this excessive use of force with our children.”
Taylor Bracey is a junior at Liberty High School in Osceola County, Florida. Her mother, Jamesha Bracey, told NBC News her daughter had previously told school administrators that other students had threatened her.
“She’s very traumatized at this moment,” her mother said, adding that her daughter has been suffering from headaches, blurry vision and memory loss since the incident. “(We’re) just angry and want justice to be served.”
As seen in the video, other students were shocked as Bracey’s head audibly hit the concrete floor. The deputy is then seen pulling her hands behind her back and handcuffing her.
Bracey’s mother said her daughter was knocked unconscious and doesn’t remember hitting the ground. She told NBC News that school administrators were initially reluctant to tell her what had happened. She doesn’t believe she would have gotten a full account if other students had not recorded the altercation.
“Why did you do that to my daughter?” she said. “She’s a very sweet girl, she loves to journal…She’s a good kid.”
On Wednesday, Sheriff Marcos Lopez announced that he would turn over the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. During a news conference, he said the deputy, Ethan Fournier, does not have a history of misconduct.
“From my understanding, it was a disruption of a school function,” Lopez said. “The student was not complying with lawful commands. She went after another student.”
Bracey’s family disputes that.
“There was never a fight,” Crump said. “There was a verbal altercation. Taylor never touched anybody and then this police officer does what we see on that video.”
Fournier is on paid leave while the investigation continues. His attorney, David Bigney, said in a statement said that “school resource officers never want to be put in a situation where they have to use force on a student.””Unfortunately sometimes a situation rises to the level where force is justified and necessary,” Bigney said. “When a video like this comes out which shows only a small portion of the story, the media and the public tend to jump to the conclusion that the use of force was excessive without knowing what led to the use of force. The use of force in this case was in fact justified.”
Fournier’s father, Gregory Fournier, told NBC News in a text message: “My son has a stellar record and would take a bullet for those students. I think he is being treated publicly very unfairly.”
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, there are an estimated 14,000-20,000 school resource officers in the U.S. and about 20 percent of all K-12 schools have one.
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