FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE, AP) – A Farmington Police school resource officer has resigned amidst release of body camera video showing the officer attempting to arrest an 11-year-old middle school girl.
The video shows officer Zachary Christensen struggle with the 6th-grade girl during an August 27 incident at Mesa View Middle School, in which Christensen was trying to arrest the student. The girl was initially accused of “assaulting” two school employees.
Releasing an hour-long recording of the incident Monday, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe also offered an apology in a prepared video statement addressing the incident.
“There’s no excuse for the way this girl was treated,” said Chief Hebbe. “As the chief of police, I am extremely disappointed that we failed to perform at our expected standards.”
The lapel video shows now-former officer Christensen throwing the 6th-grade student on the ground after roughly 30 minutes of Christensen and school administrators following the girls around the school campus. The girl, who has known behavioral issues, was walking in and out of the school building leading up to the altercation.
“We’re to the point where (school staff) can’t do anything, they can’t get any interventions in because she won’t listen to anything,” Officer Christensen can be heard saying in lapel camera video preceding the scuffle.
That morning, the girl was accused of causing problems in the school cafeteria.
“This morning, she went straight to the cafeteria, she took more milks than she was supposed to, she threw a milk on the ground, I mean, they try to say something she just walks off,” Officer Christensen can be heard saying in the lapel camera video.
The school resource officer attempted to arrest the girl after the officer accused the girl of assaulting her assistant principal and principal by brushing past them.
Over the course of about five minutes, Christensen attempted to handcuff the girl, who cried out to be left alone. The incident ended with the officer unable to get the girl in cuffs and the girl getting picked up by her mom.
Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe says the use of force did not comply with department standards.
New Mexico State Police confirmed with KRQE News 13 Monday that it’s Uniform Bureau looked into the case and forwarded it to the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office (San Juan County) for possible criminal charges. NMSP says the DA’s Office sent a letter back to NMSP, declining prosecution.
An attorney for the girl’s family told KRQE News 13 Monday it has sent notice to the Farmington Municipal Schools and the Farmington Police Department that the girl’s family intends to file a lawsuit related to the case. The family says the girl suffered a concussion, arm and shoulder pain as a result of the incident.
“While it is appreciated that the principal and vice-principal asked the officer to stop, there is a question as to what the administrators could have done to prevent this from occurring at all,” said attorney Mark Curnutt in a statement to KRQE News 13.
This has led to the main concern to assure that law enforcement is properly trained when dealing with children and that the school system is working on the implementation of measures to protect the children that attend school,” Curnutt said.
Along with the apology Monday, Farmington Police also announced that the sergeant overseeing the department’s school resource officer unit has also stepped down from his supervisory role, as the sergeant never flagged the incident with his higher-ups.
It was not known of Christensen had an attorney. No phone number for Christensen was listed.