An Airport High school resource officer used a stun gun to break up a fight Dec. 9.
A lawyer for a 16-year-old student’s family said the use of force was dangerous and demonstrates a need for districts to tighten armed officer policies.
“It is not OK to use weapons on unarmed children,” said state Rep. Justin Bamberg, a lawyer for the family of Treyvon Hampton.
The unidentified SRO works for the City of Cayce at the Lexington 2 school.
A 55-second cellphone video shows the officer breaking up a fight between Hampton and other students in a parking lot after school.
The video does not appear to be of the entire incident and what commands the officer gave are not clear, according to a Charleston Post and Courier reporter who has seen it.
Someone who sounds like a student screamed “stop.”
The officer’s arm enters the frame 22 seconds into the video after Hampton runs up to another boy and they throw punches.
The officer used his stun gun, striking Hampton in the arm, and the teenager dropped to the ground.
Students continue screaming, and the officer yells, “Back it up!” as he walks over to Hampton.
The teen put his hands behind his back and was handcuffed.
The officer’s identity was not clear. Lexington 2 referred questions about the officer to Cayce Public Safety.
A spokesman said he would not release the officer’s name but defended the officer’s actions and said an internal review of the incident has already cleared him.
In using a stun gun, the officer acted appropriately because the teenager “posed imminent danger both to the many students involved in the altercation itself, as well as the other students, teachers and staff in the area,” Cayce spokeswoman Ashley Hunter said.
5 students were arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault, Hunter said.
Lexington 2 is conducting its own investigation.
“The district takes seriously the safety of its students,” spokeswoman Dawn Kujawa said.
At the Statehouse Friday, Hampton appeared with his mother Lashauna Randolph and Rep.Justin Bamberg, a criminal defense attorney.
The teenager said he didn’t know the officer’s name.
His mother said she is trying to get answers about the officer and why he used force. The most information the family has gathered, she said, came from a bystander’s cellphone video.
Bamberg said the fight started when a group of students tried to jump one of Hampton’s friends and Hampton intervened.
Cayce police said its officer “made numerous attempts to verbally and physically de-escalate the altercation.” Hampton said he didn’t hear the officer say anything before he used his stun gun.
Emergency Medical Services were called to the scene.
2 days later, Hampton’s elbow was still swollen and he has other minor scrapes, the Post and Courier reported.
Bamberg contends it could have been far worse.
“They’re a very dangerous weapon,” he said. “Tasers can kill people.”
Bamberg called on the state’s school districts to create use-of-force policies covering officers in school, separate from what is expected of other officers on duty.
“Are they there to police children like they police adults on the street?” Bamberg said, “or are they there to be a student resource?”
On Dec. 9, the Cayce Department of Public of Safety issued this statement: “We have thoroughly investigated the incident and reviewed the use of force. We have determined that the use of force by the School Resource Officer (SRO) was both reasonable and necessary after numerous attempts to verbally and physically deescalate the altercation between the students were ignored.
“It is further determined that the deployment of the Officer’s electronic control device (Taser) was used because of the continued, active resistance of 1 student, who posed imminent danger both to the many students involved in the altercation itself, as well as the other students, teachers and staff in the area.
“To date, five students involved in the violence that occurred on Wednesday have been arrested and charged with Assault and Battery in the 3rd degree.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .