A New Mexico police officer has resigned after a body camera footage showed him slamming an 11-year-old black girl to the ground during a violent arrest.
Farmington Police officer Zachary Christensen could be seen roughing up the girl with special needs at Mesa View Middle School.
Christensen was called in after the student had a burst up with the school’s principal for taking too much milk from the cafeteria. He accused the 11-year-old sixth-grader of assaulting two school employees when he arrived at the scene.
According to him, one assault occurred when the 11-year-old walked past the assistant principal and brushes past him and the second occurred when she attempted to open the door and walked past the principal.
Christensen, who was called in to resolve the dispute and maintain law and order, lost his temper, grabbed the 11-year-old’s backpack and slammed her to the ground in a struggle that lasted for roughly six minutes on August 27.
“You can’t push him out of the way,” the officer said. “OK, I’ve had enough of this.”
Christensen wrestled the girl to the ground while she complained that he was hurting her. The girl suffered concussion, arm and shoulder pain following the incident.
According to KOB4 reporting, a school administrator repeatedly told Christensen to get off the student.
“Officer Christensen – she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” the school employee said. “No, she is!” responded Christensen.
“We’re not going to use excessive force,” the school employee told the officer to which Officer Christensen replies: “It’s not excessive!”
Christensen in his field report claimed that he had to use force because “she was very strong, stronger than I was.”
The Farmington Police department after an internal review indicted Christensen for “violating use of police force policy” for “unsatisfactory performance.”
The Farmington Police department chief Steven Hebbe told KOB4: “There’s no doubt about it. As a chief, you know darn well that this is a failure for us and you know it starts with the chief and you try and open the doors and talk about it.”
“You’re trying to figure out where we could have done a better job and what things I need to do as far as training and policies to do a better job in the future.”
“It’s such a mess because we didn’t’ follow the things that we know we should have been following. You know we’ve been training on this; we talk about de-escalating, we talk about slowing things down and that didn’t happen here,” Hebbe said.
Meanwhile, the family of the girl initiated legal action against the City of Farmington and the School.
“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,” Attorney Mark Curnutt, who is representing the girl and her mother 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,” he added.
Farmington Municipal Schools spokesperson Renee Lucero has sent “apologies to the student and family involved in this unfortunate incident.”
“FMS administration is reviewing this incident with the intent of putting into place procedures and practices to prevent another instance like this,” said Lucero in a prepared statement.
“The safety of all students entrusted to our care is among our highest priorities.”