CAMDEN, Ark. (KTVE) — An investigation is underway after a video went viral on Facebook of a Student Resource Officer appearing to have a student in a choke hold.
The incident happened just after 8 a.m. in the common area at the Camden Fairview High School.
The footage appears to show the officer, who is assigned to Camden High School as a School Resource Officer, standing behind the student with his arm around the student’s throat. Dekyrion Ellis was the student shown in the video.
“I feared for my life,” Ellis said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I blacked out. I really didn’t see anything until he took me back to the office.”
Ellis said the incident stemmed from an argument between him and another student.
“He [the student] hit me. I pushed him. Then he pushed me and I pushed him harder to where he fell on the ground,” he said. “That’s when the kids started grabbing me and him.”
After that, he said that’s when the officer stepped in and things got out of control.
“The police officer pushed the kids off of me and he grabbed me and started choking me against the glass,” Ellis recalled.
Ellis’s family took him to the hospital where doctors took x-rays of his neck. He said he also received scratches on his arm. Physically, Ellis said he’s in some pain but that doesn’t amount to the shame he’s experienced. He said he was completely embarrassed.
“He could’ve taken me to the office,” he said. “He didn’t have to restrain me. It wasn’t like I was trying to get away from him. I wasn’t resisting arrest.”
Ellis’s grandfather, Mark Ellis, agreed the actions were inappropriate and that the officer could’ve handled the incident better.
“He should have put his hands behind his back,”Ellis’s grandfather said. ” That would’ve been the appropriate way to handle the situation.”
Ellis’s mother, Alonna Parker, said she received multiple calls from people about the video. She went to Facebook and saw it herself then immediately went to the school.
“My son couldn’t even breathe,” she said.”It was just really uncalled for.”
“It was totally unnecessary for him to use that excessive force on my grandson,” Ellis’s grandmother, Delondra Ellis said. “The look he had on his face to me looked like he was proud of what he was doing.
Officer Jake Perry was put on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Chief Bo Woody at the Camden Police Department took immediate action.
“The minute I found out that there was what appeared to be misconduct on his behalf, we took actions to stop it so that it couldn’t continue,” he said. “I will have an answer within the next couple of days of what it’s going to take to resolve this.”
Police officers spend a month at a time at the school as School Resources Officers. Chief Woody said they tried to place officers at the school for an extended period of time but they become “complacent”.
“They lose the fact that they are police officers so we rotate them every month so they don’t feel their locked into one job as police officer,” he said, “They’re well-rounded if they can spend more time everywhere.”
Chief Woody said Officer Perry has worked with the C.P.D for a little over two years and has worked in the schools prior to the incident. Chief Woody said he’s never had an issue with him, stating that he’s a good guy.
“I’ve never had an incident with him,” he said. “He’s well received in the community. He’s lived here all of his life and never had an incident like this.”
According to the family, that’s not what they’ve been told about Perry’s personality.
“I have inboxes from people that don’t know me but know the officer that’s in the video and one word they described him was a bully,” Dexter Parker, Ellis’s dad said.
The family said the officer has a negative rapport with students at the middle school too. All the family wants is justice and to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“If we don’t get anything done then it’s going to keep going on,” Ellis’s mother said. “They’re not going to do anything about it.”
His grandmother agreed asking for police to do a more thorough background check on their officers.
“Especially when they’re going to be in the school system working and handling our children,” she said. “I think that would help.”
Chief Bo Woody said he plans to be transparent about the process with the family as well as the public. He said he will not tolerate misconduct from his officers.
“There’s nothing that I would do to interfere with the just and proper way to handle this situation,” he said. “There’s always an incident that sparks new policies and procedures and this is just going to be one of them.”
The Camden Police Department will investigate the matter. The chief said they will look at body cam footage and cameras at the school to take appropriate action. He hopes to have a decision before the end of the week.