A veteran school resource officer in Farmington, N.M., has resigned after video footage caught him violently brutalizing and slamming an 11-year-old Black female student to the ground. The incident happened on Aug. 27 at Mesa View Middle School in New Mexico. The officer, Zachary Christensen, used excessive force on the girl after an alleged altercation sparked by the student “disrupting the education process,” including taking too much milk from the school cafeteria, according to body camera footage released by the police department.
As the school administrator attempted to communicate with the distressed girl, she brushed past him. That action prompted Christensen’s decision to arrest the girl. He tried to place her in handcuffs by grabbing her aggressively. She repeatedly asked to be left alone and said that she wanted to go home with her mom. At that moment, the cop slammed her into the window and later to the ground. He claims to have been struck in the face. However, the video doesn’t indicate if she assaulted him or he was struck as she raised her hands to protect herself from him flailing to grab her.
In the alarming video, a school administrator can be heard asking Christensen to allow the girl, identified as “Journey,” to stand up while the officer holds the student down and repeatedly tells her to stop resisting. To which the officer said, “We’re past that.”
“Officer Christensen, she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” the school administrator said after several minutes of struggle.
The officer said: “No, she is!”
The entire video is more than 77 minutes long, but the assault takes place at the 36:05 mark.
Warning: The video contains graphic footage.
The footage also shows Christensen saying the girl was going to be charged with two counts of felonious assault. The two school administrators appeared to have left the girl alone with at least four officers who eventually arrived on the scene. The girl’s mother arrived at the school where officers and the administrator recounted what had taken place.
The student’s injuries from the assault included a mild concussion and some scrapes and bruises, Farmington Police Chief Steven Hebbe said in a statement. The family has since filed a tort, which in New Mexico often precedes a lawsuit, Mark Carnutt, the girl’s attorney, told NBC News.
Hebbe said the use of force did not comply with department standards, according to the Farmington Daily News. Christensen was placed on administrative leave during the investigation. After an internal review of the case, Christensen submitted his resignation on Sept. 24, and it became effective on Oct. 1. His supervisor was also demoted and reassigned following the incident.
State police and the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office said neither the officer nor student would face charges.
Mesa View Middle School has less than a 1% Black student population. The students are primarily Hispanic (not including race), Native American and white, according to Niche.com.
Farmington equally lacks a diverse population. According to the World Population Review, Farmington is roughly 61% white and 27% Native American with a 1% Black population. Other races make up about 6%, multiracial 4% and Asians make up about 1% of the rest of the town’s population.
A study released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2018, highlighted the ways Black students and students with disabilities were disproportionately punished compared with other students. The report also emphasized that Black girls are six more times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts.