Florida School Resource Officer Under Investigation After He’s Seen Body-Slamming Black High School Student
The officer has been since relieved from his duties.
January 27, 2021 at 11:01 pm
Florida authorities are investigating an incident where a video posted on Tuesday showed a school resource officer slamming a Black teenage girl on a concrete sidewalk and handcuffing her.
Deputy Ethan Fournier was identified on videos taken from different angles body-slamming a student at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, Florida, NBC News reports. With the officer restricting the use of her arms, the girl’s head appears in the video to hit the pavement before it bounces up and her body stops moving as the officer went to handcuff her.
Disturbing video shows an Osceola Co. FL. school resource officer body slam a student to the ground. The student appears to be standing with her hands behind her back when the deputy slams her down, her fact hitting cement. She then appears unconscious.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) January 27, 2021
Liberty High School’s website lists the deputy as its flag football coach, but Dana Schafer, the school district's spokeswoman, told The Orlando Sentinel that he was relieved from his duties “pending” the investigation.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos López said the “juvenile” is “fine” in a Wednesday press conference, and he added that she didn’t suffer any injuries. However, he said Fournier sustained injuries when he collided with the ground. Despite the undescribed injury and death threats, López described Fournier as “fine,” too.
“The student was not complying with lawful commands. She went after another student, and from there it [escalated], and that’s where the continued investigation is going from,” López said.
He also confirmed that state officials are investigating the harrowing altercation that he said caused a “disruption at a school function.”
López said the sheriff’s department has a “zero tolerance” policy for extreme use of force by any of its officers. The Hill reports that he told the media the investigation was being managed by state officials “to make sure this is completely independent” of the department.
“Part of my campaign promises was we would have zero, absolute zero tolerance, for use of [excessive] force by any of our deputies, no matter where they are,” Lopez said.
He added the case will have “complete transparency. We remove this burden off us and pass it onto a higher authority to ensure that no one can say that we’re looking out for our own."
Nirva Rodríguez, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) spokesperson, didn’t respond to questions about any potential charges against the girl.
“It is an ongoing investigation. As soon as we have more information, we will share it with the media,” she said in an email.
The footage also captures Deputy Gerardo Pabón watching as Fournier handcuffed the girl who appeared unconscious.
The FDLE declined to confirm if he was also being investigated. “The case is active,” spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an email to The Sentinel.
Police officials say Fournier has no history of misconduct, but previously caused “minor damage to property,” without specifying the amount or type of damage he caused. He has been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is resolved, according to The Hill.
Jon Arguello, an Osceola County School Board member whose district includes Liberty High, said he understands that many parents are “angry and concerned” but hopes that they allow the investigation to conclude before they react.
“Initially my reaction was the same as any parent or reasonable person, I have a deep concern for the child and a sense of sadness,” he said in an email. “Then I got angry, but before I reacted, I tried to think reasonably. I wondered why and how this happened.”
He said that it’s his job to provide the school community with the “complete truth.” Arguello then advocated for the use of law enforcement officers in schools, before adding, “we need our students to be able to trust them.”