9News LARAMIE, Wyo. — A federal lawsuit accuses a Laramie County, Wyoming deputy of violating an 8-year-old boy's rights by tackling him to the ground and restraining him at school when he hadn't done anything wrong. The deputy then deleted body camera footage of the assault, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit was filed by the boy's parents against the Laramie County Sheriff's Office and the deputy, who was working as a school resource officer at the time. The incident happened in February 2022 at a Laramie County School District 1 elementary school on Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, where the boy's father was stationed at the time.
The lawsuit says the deputy happened to be standing near the principal's office while a teacher and the principal were talking with the boy, identified in the lawsuit as J.D., about comments he had made to a cashier in the lunchroom. J.D., who has a neurodivergent disability, had been going to the principal's office during his lunch recess for the last few days in accordance with his Individualized Education Plan, the lawsuit says.
The discussion was going well, the lawsuit says, and at no point did anyone request the deputy help or intervene.
When J.D. got up to go back to class, the lawsuit says, the deputy grabbed him by the arm, "forcibly wrestled" him into a conference room and "repeatedly slammed J.D. face down onto the floor of the conference room, causing multiple bleeding facial injuries." He then climbed on top of the boy and pinned him facedown on the floor, causing him to struggle to breathe, and screamed threats at him, the lawsuit says. Wyoming law prohibits the use of prone restraint in schools, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the portion of the body camera video showing the assault was deleted by the deputy. The details come from a report filed by the principal.
Body camera video that wasn't deleted shows the boy pinned under the deputy as the boy "screams and cries in pain and fear," the lawsuit says. It also shows him bleeding from wounds on his face. The assault continued for "many minutes," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit emphasizes that the boy was not suspected of any crime, was not under arrest and did not have a weapon.
According to the lawsuit, when the boy's father asked why the deputy put his hands on J.D. when he wasn't hurting anyone, the deputy said "Because, as a law enforcement officer, that's my primary function."
The lawsuit says the Air Force had to relocate the family to a base in another state due to the assault, and the boy has sustained "serious and continuing psychological injuries."
The lawsuit says the deputy "was not disciplined or even re-trained by the Laramie County Sheriff's Department." Matthew Haltzman, an attorney representing the parents, told 9NEWS the deputy is still employed by the sheriff's office. It's unclear whether he is still working as a school resource officer.
9NEWS reached out to the sheriff's office and the school district for comment, but had not heard back by the time of publication.
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