DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools officials contend a school police officer who shoved, kicked, dragged and pepper sprayed a 15-year-old female student “followed proper procedures” for handling unruly students.
Cass Technical High School sophomore Destiny Heard was late to class in December and attempted to ride the school’s elevator without a valid elevator pass, and a teacher forced her to take the stairs to her sixth-floor classroom instead, Vice.com reports.
Heard did not immediately go to the stairwell and allegedly lingered by the elevator, so the teacher involved called a school security officer to ensure she didn’t attempt to ride without a proper pass. Heard allegedly refused to provide identification to the officer and took the stairs to the second floor, where she was met with another officer and Orlando Bogins, the dean of students, Heard told the news site.
After a verbal argument with Bogins, the teen put in her headphones to ignore Bogins and was left with the officer, Charles Braziel. Braziel demanded that the girl hand over her phone, and when she refused, a physical scuffle ensued, ABC 7 reports.
“She told me he said, ‘I am going to take that phone from you.’ She said, ‘Why? I haven’t done anything.’ He reached for her phone and she pulled her phone away and he couldn’t get it,” Heard’s mother, Venus Heard, told the news site.
Surveillance video of the incident released this week as part of a criminal case stemming from the incident shows Braziel then grabbed the phone from Heard and swung her around by her backpack. When Heard attempted to walk away, Braziel slammed her head into the wall and pushed her into a corner, Vice reports.
Moments later, Braziel blasted the girl in the face with pepper spray.
“Towards the end of the video, as Braziel hovers over the 15-year-old attempting to get her to stand up, he grabs her hair, drags her and even kicks her before he ultimately picks her up and carries her away as she flails her arms and legs wanting to get away from the cop,” according to the news site.
“I truly did not expect anything like this to happen when I went to school. I’ve read about police brutality and read about it happening in other schools, but you don’t think, ‘Oh I am going to school, and this is what’s going to happen to me,’” Heard told Vice. “I was absolutely hysterical and surprised, I didn’t understand what I did wrong.”
Heard was eventually taken to the school nurse to wash out her eyes, and her mother – who was calling her phone during the ordeal – showed up at the school and escorted her daughter in the ambulance to the hospital. Heard, who is asthmatic, was temporarily listed in serious condition but recovered without serious injuries, according to news reports.
Braziel later filed a criminal charge of assaulting a police officer based on his allegations the student kicked and attempted to bite him, and Heard was suspended for a month for insubordination and assaulting an officer. A judge overseeing Heard’s criminal case summoned the school surveillance video and dismissed the charges after reviewing the footage, ABC 7 reports.
“My daughter was suspended for 30 days for something she didn’t do,” Venus Heard said of the alleged assault on an officer. “This is an extreme measure taken unnecessarily. I want to know why.”
Venus Heard later filed a complaint with the Detroit Public Schools police, who launched an “investigation” and produced a truly embarrassing 68-page report riddled with grammatical, spelling, and other errors.
The report’s author, Sgt. Emmitt Smith, also neglected to properly redact the student’s name in parts of the report, which exposed the minor’s identity when it was later made public.
“Based on the facts above of this incident, the action exhibited by CSPO Charles Braziel was found to be proper, considering all the witnesses interviewed, statements were consistent, also due to the video evidence regarding this matter,” Smith wrote. “The allegation (of excessive force) is unfounded; it is demonstrably false, or there is no credible evidence to support it.”
In a “first endorsement” of Smith’s report by inspector Gary Christian, district officials even went as far as to justify Braziel kicking the student while she was on the ground.
“Point of interpretation, when everyone reviews the five minutes of video of an approximately thirty minute ordeal, involving (redacted) and Officer Braziel, viewers will focus on Officer Braziel kicking (redacted),” Christian wrote. “I attribute Officer Braziel reactions as a split second response to being kicked or a sensory stimulus (ascribe to a temporary discomfort to his leg) and his subsequent behavioral response.
“Also, the videotape of the incident provided limited footage of the entire incident, which began on the first floor by the elevator and ended on the second floor at the Book Store. Therefore, the vantage points of the submitted videotape was skewed,” he wrote in recommending “no action” against Braziel.
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