Wisconsin schoolgirl, 12, charged after off-duty cop knelt on her neck while breaking up fight

Off-duty Kenosha police officer Shawn Guetschow was filmed kneeling on the girl’s neck while breaking up fight

Sheila Flynn
Friday 13 May 2022 19:54 BST
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A 12-year-old Wisconsin girl, who was pictured on the ground as a Kenosha police officer working security at her middle school knelt on her neck, has been charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the March incident.

The events unfolded after the girl and another student got into a fight in the cafeteria of Lincoln Middle School. Kenosha Police Officer Shawn Guetschow, a four-year veteran of the force, was off duty and working part-time security at the school at the time; when he intervened to break up the fight, he attempted to restrain the 12-year-old and was captured on cellphone footage kneeling on the girl’s neck for more than 20 seconds.

She was handcuffed and led away and is now facing charges, according to an attorney for the girl’s family.

“A juvenile delinquency petition has been filed against Jane Doe in Kenosha County,” Drew DeVinney told CNN. “However, the proceedings and court filings are confidential.”

The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office told The Independent it would not comment on any matters involving juveniles, and the Kenosha Police Department spokesman did not immediately return a message.

In March, the department confirmed to CNN that a charge of disorderly conduct had been referred to prosecutors for each girl involved in the incident, but the status of any charges involving the second student was not immediately clear Friday.

The 4 March incident not only shone a spotlight yet again on racial unrest in Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire in 2020 during protests over the police shooting of a Black man; it also called to mind the 2020 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and back for more than nine minutes – in a position similar to that used by Officer Guetschow on the young student.

The girl’s father, speaking to reporters after the incident, said he “didn’t see the video until much later that night.

“I had already grounded my daughter for the fight,” Jerrel Perrez said. “She kept telling me her neck hurt, but I thought she was just trying to get out of punishment. When I saw that video of a grown man holding her down like that, I felt guilty and helpless.”

He told CNN in March: “Looking at that picture, it destroyed me.

“All it takes is just a little bit, especially for a 12-year-old girl. We’ve seen a grown man die from that same situation, just imagine a fragile 12-year-old’s neck.”

Kenosha Police Chief Eric Larsen has asked the FBI to look into the case, spokesman Lt Joseph Nosalik said last month.

“Because of the visual similarities to George Floyd, he decided that our department’s credibility and integrity were paramount,” Lt Nosalik told WISN. “He wanted an outside agency to look at the incident in its entirety.”

The family plans to sue the officer, who resigned from his security position at the school but remains on the Kenosha force, according to Mr DeVinney – in addition to suing the police chief and school district.

“No criminal charges have been filed against Officer Guetschow, who we understand remains employed with the Kenosha Police Department,” Mr DeVinney wrote in part of the notice of claim, CNN reported.

The attorney did not immediately answer The Independent’s request for comment.

“The difference between how an adult with a badge and a child with Black skin are being treated should offend everyone’s sense of morality, ethics, and justice,” Mr DeVinney later continued. “She is the victim of police brutality and now, what seems to be a concerted effort to silence her with baseless charges. The absence of accountability for a grown man that choked this child is striking.”

According to paperwork seen by local station TMJ4, when filing an incident report, Officer Guetschow failed to check a box confirming that he “did not place pressure or weight on the student’s neck or throat, on an artery, or that otherwise obstruct the student’s circulation or breathing.”

An attorney for the Kenosha Unified School District, in a written statement to CNN said: “The allegations within the Notice of Claim are unfounded. The Kenosha Unified School District will vigorously defend itself and its employees in the event that litigation is initiated in this matter.”

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