Last spring, a disabled Wyoming 8-year-old was assaulted by a school resource officer, who pinned the boy facedown on the floor of a school conference room seemingly unprovoked. According to a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family last week, after the incident, the resource officer deleted body camera footage showing the most egregious parts of the attack and even accessed the child’s private school records without his parents’ or school administrators’ knowledge.
Last February, an 8-year-old with a “diagnosed neurodivergent disability” was sitting in the principal’s office of Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyoming, during the school’s lunch period. The boy, named in the suit as “J.D.,” had been doing this for days, in accordance with his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The complaint states that Principal Chad Delbridge and another faculty member began to quietly speak to J.D. about comments he made to a school cafeteria cashier and whether he should apologize to the cashier. Deputy Benjamin Jacquot, the school resource officer, was standing nearby during the discussion. J.D. was calm during this period.
According to a report later filed by Delbridge, when J.D. stood up to return to class moments later, Jacquot grabbed J.D.’s arm. Delbridge had not asked for Jacquot’s assistance in any way.”J.D. was not a threat to himself or to anyone else. There was no reason at all for Deputy Jacquot to become involved with J.D. during this interaction with Principal Delbridge,” the lawsuit notes. “Deputy Jacquot, nevertheless, forcibly wrestled J.D. into a nearby conference room using an armlock where the assault grew violent.”
The suit claims that Jacquot repeatedly “slammed” J.D.’s face into the conference room floor, causing numerous lacerations and bruises. The undeleted portion of Jacquot’s body camera footage shows the 250-pound Jacquot pinned on top of 68-pound J.D.”At this point, J.D. is bleeding from wounds on his face, and his smeared blood is visible on the video,” the complaint reads. “As shown on the video, Deputy Jacquot is out of control, pinning J.D. by his arms face down to the ground in a prone restraint position and yelling threats at J.D. J.D., meanwhile, is struggling to breathe, and is coughing.”
According to the suit, Jacquot screamed at J.D.: “Do you understand me! I should be taking you to jail!”Eventually, Delbridge called J.D.’s father, Ishmael DeJesus, to pick him up. When he arrived, DeJesus asked Jacquot why he grabbed J.D. even though the boy wasn’t causing a disruption.”Because, as a law enforcement officer, that’s my primary function,” Jacquot replied.
The complaint further alleges that “immediately after his assault on J.D., Deputy Jacquot went to his vehicle, and, upon information and belief, destroyed evidence by deleting his body cam video which showed the most violent portion of the assault, as well as the footage of his improper intervention into and escalation of this situation.”
Later, Jacquot obtained J.D.’s “private and protected” school records and included excerpts of those records in the police report of the incident. An investigation from the school later concluded that Jacquot had “no need to access these records in his work with this situation.”In addition to his physical injuries, the lawsuit says that the incident has led to long-term psychological consequences for J.D., including the need for psychological treatment and J.D.’s transfer to a school for children with emotional disturbances.In all, the suit argues that Jacquot’s use of excessive force violated J.D.’s Fourth Amendment rights and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.”Deputy Jacquot failed to employ reasonable interventions with respect to J.D. such as crisis intervention, de-escalation, patience, and waiting, which would have been consistent with J.D’s status as a disabled child as well as his IEP,” the lawsuit reads. “J.D. suffered and continues to suffer physical pain, emotional pain, psychological injury, trauma, and suffering.”