Authorities from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office are investigating an incident that resulted in a school resource officer tasing an allegedly unruly 17-year-old student at the Wayne County Schools Career Center Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to the deputy deploying his taser, the student, who had just come back to campus after a suspension, was involved in a verbal altercation with the school’s dean of students about dress code violations, school and sheriff’s officials said.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the career center location in Smithville. Wayne Co. Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Hunter said the student got into a verbal argument with the dean of students regarding a dress code violation. Students at the WCSCC are required to wear uniforms.
Superintendent Kip Crain said the dean of students offered the 17-year-old some clothing that he could wear for the day. The dean also said the student could have his parents or guardians drop off the required clothing, Crain said. However, the student stormed out of the dean’s office, prompting the dean to request the school resource officer to intervene. The student reportedly failed to comply with the deputy's requests and, instead, went to the school’s common area where students each lunch.
“School officials and the deputy tried to contain that [situation] away from that area but the young man moved into that area on his own,” Capt. Hunter said. “The young man was given numerous opportunities not to get into any trouble at all or be involved in any type of physical altercation.”
Another student captured video of the altercation on a cell phone. The video, which was posted to YouTube on Tuesday, first shows the student appearing to resist the deputy in a hallway near an exit door. As the deputy tries to restrain the student’s right arm, the student appears to contort his body in an effort to get away from the deputy, the video shows. The student then breaks away from the deputy and walks back toward the common area. At this point, the video shows the school resource officer un-holstering his taser.
Another school official tries to prevent the student from walking back into the common area when the deputy attempts to grab the student’s left arm, prompting the student to swing his arm away from the deputy. The video shows the deputy again instructing the student to go back to the dean’s office. Initially, the student begins walking to the dean’s office when he appears to try to turn away from the deputy again, the video shows. The student then places his hands on the wall as the deputy stood behind him.
“[The student] was yelling, being disruptive and when the deputy tried to stop him, he pulled away and was resisting the deputy's efforts to get the young man to go to another area of the school,” Capt. Hunter said. “Ultimately, it escalated to the point where the deputy pulled out his taser. After the student threatened to punch him, the deputy discharged the taser and essentially ended the incident. Even when it escalated to the point where the deputy was involved, the deputy tried to de-escalate the situation but the student wasn’t having any part of that.”
The deputy deployed his taser and the student fell to the floor. The video shows the deputy again trying to restrain the student but the student would not place his arms around his back, prompting the deputy to deploy the taser again. Capt. Hunter said although the deputy deployed the taser twice, the probes that carry the electrical current came into contact with the student once.
“Had [he] not deployed the taser the situation could have escalated to a physical fight,” Capt. Hunter said. “Potentially, the risk of injury would be much greater than the taser.”
Authorities said EMS was called to the school to check out the student, who was not injured. The student was sent home, Crain said. The school resource officer, a 10-year veteran of the department, has been temporarily reassigned while the sheriff’s office investigates the incident.
“[He] started the [school resource officer] duties in August of this year. He was assigned to this particular school. He was hand-picked by us because he met the criteria. We felt like he would do a good job,” Capt. Hunter said. “Not surprisingly, we have gotten nothing but positive reviews.”
Capt. Hunter said the sheriff’s office has requested the assistance of an outside agency to investigate the school resource officer's use of force. The request comes in an effort to convey transparency throughout the investigation, Capt. Hunter said. If the investigation shows the school resource officer's use of force was reasonable, he will have the opportunity to resume his school resource officer duties if both the sheriff’s office and WCSCC feel it’s the right decision.
As for the unidentified student, Crain said he has had prior disciplinary issues. In the coming days, WCSCC officials will be meeting with the student and the student’s parents to discuss and determine the student’s future at the vocational school. Homeschooling is an option, Crain said.
“In my 15 years at WCSCC, we’ve had a great relationship with the [school resource officers],” Crain said. “This is the first incident we’ve had.”
While the school resource officer remains on temporary re-assignment, another deputy is filling in as the school resource officer, Capt. Hunter said.