Family files lawsuit against off-duty Kenosha police officer who knelt on 12-year-old girl’s neck

Share

Nearly a year after an off-duty police officer was caught on video kneeling on a 12-year-old girl’s neck at a Wisconsin high school, her family filed a lawsuit alleging the officer violated her constitutional rights.

The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against Officer Shawn Guetschow, the City of Kenosha and the Kenosha Unified School District Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The lawsuit was filed by the victim’s father, Jerrel Perez, and the student, identified only as Jane Doe because she is a minor.

In the March 4, 2022 incident at Lincoln High School, Guetschow, a Kenosha police officer who also worked as a security guard at the school, broke up a fight between Jane Doe and another girl in her sixth-grade class at Cafeteria. the lawsuit said.

According to school surveillance footage of the incident, Guetschow fell to the ground with the Jane Doe after separating the girls. She then pushed her head against the cafeteria floor and put her knee on her neck for about half a minute before handcuffing her.

The lawsuit alleges that Guetschow used excessive force to arrest Doe, alleges that the city of Kenosha and the Kenosha Unified School District failed to provide him with any training on security guard work and therefore were unable to prevent the incident.

NBC News has contacted the city of Kenosha for comment.

Attorney Sam Hall, who represents the Kenosha Unified School District and Officer Shawn Guetschow, said in a statement that the district will «vigorously defend» itself and Guetschow in the civil litigation.

Hall said the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office notified the Kenosha County District Attorney last week that it will not file any charges against Guetschow.

Meanwhile, the Kenosha Police Department said «Guetschow was not found to have violated anyone’s civil rights.»

illegal strangulation

The lawsuit said that Jane Doe, who had moved to Kenosha in 2021 with her father and siblings, was “acting in self-defense” and “at the threat of bodily harm” by fighting with her partner.

At the time of the fight, Guetschow and a school counselor were supervising the students, the lawsuit says. The counselor told him that she believed that Jane Doe and her classmate were about to fight, and they both watched as the student approached Doe.

When they caught up with the girls, the other student was hitting Doe, according to the lawsuit.

In the fight, Guetschow went down and Doe went down with him. After the fall, he grabbed Doe by her neck and pulled her face down to the ground, the lawsuit says.

He “pushed his right knee into the back of the Jane Doe’s neck while simultaneously pushing her head into the cafeteria floor” and gave her no instructions, he said. It is unclear if the two had any communication as the video released by the district had no audio and both Geutschow and the student were wearing face masks.

The lawsuit said Guetschow’s use of force constituted unlawful strangulation.

The use of a chokehold is prohibited by the Kenosha Police Department Policyexcept where deadly force is permitted, and only as a last resort.

The lawsuit said that a responsible officer in Guetschow’s position «would not have believed that the use of a chokehold was reasonable and necessary.»

Jane Doe, according to the file, did not resist, was unable to breathe in the chokehold, and told Guetschow that she could not breathe.

Even so, he kept the pressure on her neck.

Guetschow later told a Kenosha police officer earlier that day that he thought one of the girls had hit him, according to the lawsuit.

«Guetschow’s use of the chokehold against the Jane Doe was motivated by malice and anger at her belief that she was punched.» she said the suit.

Doe suffered physical injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, cervical strain and recurring headaches, as well as emotional distress, mental trauma and anxiety, according to the filing. She has had to seek counseling and change schools as a result of the incident.

The officer had a short temper, was not offered training for the job

Guetschow had a reputation for «having a short temper,» the lawsuit says.

Prior to his employment with the City of Kenosha and KUSD, he was an employee of the Lake Geneva Police Department. In his last year of employment there, his performance on the field was rated «unacceptable» and he was described as «emotional, panicked or losing his temper,» the lawsuit says. NBC News has contacted Lake Geneva police to confirm this account.

The lawsuit says the city of Kenosha and KUSD insufficiently evaluated his performance on the field relative to his duties at Lincoln Middle School.

Guetschow had resigned from the school district the same month as the kneeling incident.

getschow he was placed on administrative leave by Kenosha police pending various investigations and returned to active duty status on January 31, 2023, the department said.

The lawsuit says the incident occurred because the Kenosha Police Department «failed to properly supervise, discipline, and/or train its employees with regard to secondary employment as school security officers.»

In addition, the city of Kenosha was allegedly «aware» of Guetschow’s «bad temper» at the time of his hire, but he was still allowed to become a school safety officer, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the incident violated Jane Doe’s constitutional rights and was «a foreseeable and probable consequence of hiring Guetschow and failing to train him» to «interact with children in a school setting.»

The lawsuit also said that KUSD failed to provide any training to the off-duty police officers it employed and did not require the off-duty officers to receive any training, and by failing to properly train and supervise such officers, the district was «willfully indifferent «. to the rights of Jane Doe.

The suit seeks compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

Hall, Guetschow’s attorney, said his client continues to recover from injuries sustained in the altercation.

“As Officer Guetschow tried to break up the fight, he was pushed to the ground and his head violently hit a table as he fell to the ground. Officer Guetschow suffered a concussion, significant swelling, and a bruise to his head during this incident. Despite his injuries, and through the use of a trained law enforcement technique, he was eventually able to gain control of the student and escorted him to school administrators and law enforcement officers on duty,” Hall said.

Surveillance video does not show him hitting his head on the table as several students stand up and block the camera’s view, but he is seen falling towards the table.

“These officers are in Kenosha Unified schools because the District’s top priority is to provide a safe learning environment for its students and staff. We will vigorously defend KUSD and Officer Guetschow in this action,» the statement continued.

The Kenosha Police Department said in a statement Tuesday that it «withholds any statements or comments about the lawsuit and finds the appropriate place for such discussion to be within the courtroom.»

The department said Guetschow was placed on administrative leave following the March 4 incident pending the outcome of three separate investigations. Ultimately, «he was not found to have violated anyone’s civil rights, nor was he found to have committed a crime.»

“In addition, an internal investigation found that Officer Guetschow did not violate Kenosha Police Department policy or procedure,” police said.

You may also like...