LA MESA, Calif. - Hundreds of Helix High School students staged a walkout Monday morning to protest police brutality after video emerged over the weekend on social media showing a La Mesa police officer on campus slamming a teenage girl to the ground.
The incident, which happened Friday afternoon, was captured on video from at least two different angles and posted on social media by a Facebook user who promised to "completely (shut) down my sister's school, Helix High, on Monday."
Helix staff called police for assistance at about 1:20 p.m. Friday when the 17-year-old girl, who was on "suspended status," would not comply with directions to leave school grounds, La Mesa Chief of Police Walt Vasquez said in a statement. An officer tried to get the student to leave voluntarily, then ordered her to do so.
She refused to cooperate, Vasquez said, and the officer arrested her and placed her in handcuffs.
"As they were walking, the student became non-compliant on two separate occasions and made an attempt to free herself by pulling away from the officer," Vasquez said. "To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground."
Neither video posted on Facebook clearly shows what led up to the slam, but both show the officer throw the girl across his body from left to right, with her upper body slamming onto the concrete first. The officer then pins the girl on the ground with his upper body for several seconds as the teen appears to lay motionless on the ground, then rolls her to her side.
As I did with Lincoln high I will stand with these students at Helix High . I take every issue and situation I deal with personally but this time you messed with one of my babies that could’ve easily been my sister as the young lady who was hurt is my sisters friend. I’m angry and pissed off! We made San Diego school districts lives a living hell until we our demands were met. I will make Grossmont school district a living hell along with the Mesa Police Department until this officer is removed from every school in the San Diego County permanently!!!! #noMore #thewrongone
"After the student agreed to quit resisting and attempting to escape, the officer assisted her up and walked her to his patrol vehicle," Vasquez said.
The student received "minor abrasions" in the incident, Vasquez said. She was taken to the La Mesa Police Department, where she was evaluated by paramedics and determined not to require treatment.
Around 8 a.m. Monday, students at the La Mesa high school began walking out of their classrooms and gathering near the front entrance of the school. One student held a sign that read, "We're anti-police brutality, not anti-police."
Aeiramique Blake, whose sister attends Helix and who said she was a spokeswoman for the family of the girl slammed by the officer, said that students and community members are demanding the officer be removed from his position on campus.
"He never needs to work with kids again," Blake said. "We're tired of police justifying the abuse they do to our youth."
Outside the school Monday morning and in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Blake contested the police version of events. She told the Union-Tribune that the student was allowed to be on campus while assigned to in- school suspension, but the 17-year-old had a conflict with an instructor who accused her of being on drugs. Blake said that when the instructor searched the girl's backpack, no drugs were found, but the teen had pepper spray.
The student said she carried pepper spray for protection because she rides the trolley to school from southeast San Diego, but the teacher told her she'd have to leave campus because she brought a weapon, Blake said. When the girl refused to leave, the instructor called police.
"No matter what was done or not done, that was not the appropriate way to handle a young lady," Blake told the newspaper. "The community is completely outraged."
Police are aware of and in possession of a video of the student being slammed to the ground, Vasquez said.
"As is protocol with all incidents involving use of force, the La Mesa Police Department will be conducting a detailed review of the force used and of the entire incident," the police chief said. "Helix High School officials are also fully aware of the facts surrounding the incident."