A New Mexico police officer has resigned after video surfaced of him slamming a schoolgirl with special needs against a wall.
The 11-year-old student at Mesa View Middle School in Farmington reportedly took too much milk from the cafeteria, KOB 4 reports.
In the bodycam video from Aug. 27, veteran police officer Zachary Christensen could be heard saying, “OK, I’ve had enough of this,” before proceeding to take the middle school sixth grader’s book bag off her back as she exits the school in Farmington.
“Take your bag off, take your bag off,” he told the young girl, who had been in trouble for behavioral issues. “You’re done. You’re done.”
As she continued holding on her to bag, he yelled for her to put her arms behind her back, and slammed her into the wall outside of the school.
He continued struggling with her and yelling, “Put your arms behind your back,” as the girl began sobbing and saying, “You’re hurting my arm.”
“Get off of me, ouch, you’re hurting my arm,” the young girl said, pleading.
Christensen can then be seen lifting one of her legs and slamming her to the ground and pinning her down.
“Turn over! Turn over!” he yelled. “Do not resist! Stop resisting!”
He then demanded she “stand up,” moments after slamming her on the ground.
“You can’t give me all these commands and expect me to do them all at once,” the girl cried.
A school administrator stood by watching and repeatedly told Christensen to let the girl get up, but he did not interfere.
“Officer Christensen -- she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” the school official said.
“No, she is!” Christensen replied.
The school employee told the officer, “We’re not going to use excessive force.”
And he replied, “It’s not excessive!”
The confrontation lasted roughly six minutes.
Christensen worked as a school resource officer at Mesa View for the past four years.
On the day of the incident, his bodycam video also showed school administrators following the girl around campus as she waited for her mom to pick her up from school, KOB 4 reports.
“This morning, she went straight to the cafeteria. She took more milks that she was supposed to. She threw milk on the ground,” Christensen said in the bodycam footage obtained by the KOB 4 Investigates team.
“That’s not our standards,” Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe told KOB 4.
On Monday (October 21), New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he is looking into the incident.
“Students should always feel safe in schools,” Balderas said in a statement to KOB 4. “I have called for an expedited investigation and will work directly with all proper authorities involved in this regrettable tragedy.”
Christensen’s field report from the incident stated that the child, whose name was not released because she is a minor, assaulted two school employees that morning. The reported assaults took place when she brushed past the assistant principal and when she attempted to open the door and walked past the principal.
“She was very strong, stronger than I was,” he stated in the report.
The charges were dropped.
“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, told KOB 4.
Curnutt is taking legal action against the City of Farmington and the school, KOB 4 reports.
“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.
The Farmington Municipal Schools spokesperson Renee Lucero issues a statement and extended apologies to the student and her family for the “unfortunate incident.”
“FMS administration is reviewing this incident with the intent of putting into place procedures and practices to prevent another instance like this,” Lucero said in the statement. “The safety of all students entrusted to our care is among our highest priorities.”
Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe confirmed Christensen, who was placed on administrative leave the day after the incident, was up to date on his use-of-force training.
Christensen received two sanctions after the department’s internal review, which included “violating use of force policy” and “unsatisfactory performance.”
On Oct. 1, Christensen resigned from the department and the supervisor who oversees the school resource officers has been reassigned, according to KOB 4.
Chief Hebbe said that since the incident he is “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.”
(Photo: Farmington Police Department YouTube)