WYOMING NEWS, CHEYENNE — A family that used to live in Laramie County is suing the sheriff’s office, alleging that a deputy, acting as a school resource officer, brutalized their 8-year-old son, traumatizing him and forcing the family to move.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in late November. It was submitted with several images, including photos from the body camera belonging to the deputy in question, Benjamin Jacquot. The alleged incident took place on Feb. 15, 2022, at Freedom Elementary School.
In one photograph, the child has multiple bruises on his face. In another image, which the complaint alleges came from the deputy’s body camera, Jacquot can be seen restraining the child, identified in the document as J.D., and pinning him to the floor. The civil lawsuit was filed by Emily and Ishmael DeJesus, J.D.’s parents. Some text in the complaint implies that racial bias is a factor in the assault.
“At the time of the assault, Deputy Jacquot (who is White) weighed over 250 pounds,” the document read, “and 8-year-old J.D. (who is African American) weighed 68 pounds.”
The complaint alleges a violation of the child’s Fourth and 14th amendment rights “based on (Jacquot’s) unreasonable seizure and use of force against J.D. when no seizure or force at all was necessary.” Another aspect of the complaint alleges that the body camera video of the incident is partially deleted.
“Upon information and belief, following the assault, Deputy Jacquot deleted portions of his body cam video of the event, in an effort to conceal his wrongdoing,” a portion of the complaint read.
J.D. had an individualized education plan (IEP) due to a “diagnosed neurodivergent disability” that the deputy was aware of when the assault took place, according to the document. When the incident happened, J.D. had been pulled aside by a teacher and Freedom’s principal to discuss comments the child made to a cashier at the school’s lunchroom. At that time, the complaint alleged that Jacquot was near the principal’s office while he was speaking to J.D. for a random “security check.” The complaint notes that neither the educator, nor the principal, had asked for an intervention from Jacquot during their conversation with the child.
“J.D. was not a threat to himself or to anyone else,” the document read. “There was no reason at all for Deputy Jacquot to become involved with J.D during this interaction with Principal (Chad) Delbridge. Deputy Jacquot, nevertheless, forcibly wrestled J.D. into a nearby conference room using an armlock, where the assault grew violent.”
Citing the body camera footage, the complaint notes that the child can be seen coughing, struggling to breathe and bleeding.
“On the video, J.D. repeatedly states, ‘I give up.’ In response, Deputy Jacquot screams at the child, ‘No, it’s all me! Do you understand me! I should be taking you to jail!’”
The child was later picked up by his father, Ishmael DeJesus, who asked the deputy why he touched J.D. when he was not harming anyone. In the document, it said Jacquot audibly said in the video that he did it “because as a law enforcement officer, that’s my primary function.”
The complaint went on to detail the personal issues the DeJesus family has dealt with since the event, including continued psychological trauma and moving away from Cheyenne as a result of the attack.
The document also noted that Jacquot allegedly accessed confidential school records for the child and included them in his report on the incident to “justly his assault on a child.” It also said that, even with portions of the video removed, no video or written report showed any conduct from J.D. that would cause alarm or require intervention.
The civil suit alleges the following civil violations: unreasonable seizure and excessive force in violation of the U.S. Constitution, disability-based discrimination in violation of Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, failure to accommodate in violation of Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and violations of the Rehabilitation Act. The complaint also came with a “jury demand,” which is a motion requesting these matters be heard in court and in front of a jury.
The complaint concluded by saying that the family was informed by Laramie County Sheriff’s Office that the deputy’s actions were “appropriate and justified.”
On Monday, LCSO Undersheriff Chance Walkama told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that Jacquot is still employed by the agency, but is no longer a school resource officer.
“The incident was investigated by the previous sheriff, and Deputy Jacquot was cleared in the use of force of the incident,” Walkama wrote in an email Monday morning. “When Sheriff (Brian) Kozak took office in January of 2023, he suspended the school resource officer program until a best practice policy for the program was implemented.”
Walkama also denied the allegation that the body camera footage was deleted, and said that the camera’s vendor reported that it malfunctioned during part of the incident. He said that the agency has replaced all body cameras on deputies since the incident took place.
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