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Family of girl subdued in middle school incident files claim against Kenosha police officer, chief and district

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Jerrel Perez, the father of the 12-year-old girl who had an officer subdue her by placing his knee on her neck, speaks to the media during a press conference organized by local and region organizations in front of the ESC building on Wednesday to address the recent officer-involved incident at Lincoln Middle School.

The father whose 12-year-old daughter was reportedly injured when an off-duty Kenosha Police officer knelt on the back of her neck while trying to subdue her during an in-school incident has filed a claim in a first step toward a lawsuit.

The notice was filed Tuesday, according to documents submitted by Drew DeVinney, attorney for Jerrel Perez, the girl’s father.

The claim names Police Officer Shawn Guetschow, Interim Police Chief Eric Larsen, the City of Kenosha and the Kenosha Unified School District. Should the lawsuit proceed, Perez intends to ask for damages, including punitive damages, for the violation of his daughter’s constitutional rights.

The claim states Guetschow violated state criminal and civil laws when “he held his knee against the back of the neck” of the girl. The claim also alleges that Guetschow lost his temper and choked the child “until she suffered a traumatic brain injury.”

"The allegations within the Notice of Claim are unfounded. The Kenosha Unified School District will vigorously defend itself and its employees in the event that litigation is initiated in this matter," Sam Hall Jr. of Crivello Carlson, S.C., Kenosha Unified's attorney, said Wednesday night. Lt. Joseph Nosalik, spokesperson for the police department, said he had yet to see the claim and, therefore, could not comment.

Guetschow was working as a security officer for the district at Lincoln Middle School at the time of the March 4 incident. Police officials have said the officer remains employed with the department and is on desk duty while an internal investigation into the matter continues. In late April, Larsen requested an escalated investigation by the FBI, which is currently looking into whether possible civil rights violations occurred in the case.

According to DeVinney, no criminal charges have been filed against Guetschow.

“The Kenosha District Attorney’s office has not commented about the matter and has not announced any investigation of Officer Guetschow,” he said.

Girl charged with misdemeanor

The office has criminally charged the girl with a misdemeanor, according to DeVinney. The girl who is identified as Jane Doe in the claim is not in custody, he said.  No additional information on the criminal charges  against her were immediately released, however, the claim notes while the juvenile delinquency petition has been filed, the proceedings are confidential. According to the claim, DeVinney challenges the inequity in law enforcement that is beset against children of color.

“The difference between how an adult with a badge and a child with black skin are being treated should offend everyone’s sense of morality, ethics, and justice. By pursuing charges against Jane Doe, the Kenosha Police Department is attempting to criminalize an innocent child to justify the unjustifiable.

“Jane Doe is an innocent victim and will defend herself against these baseless charges,” DeVinney said in the claim. “They know that change cannot be accomplished in silence. Jerrel Perez will not sit silently as the Kenosha Police Department vilifies his innocent daughter for their own political gain.”

A little more than week after the incident, Guetschow resigned his position with the district citing the district’s lack of support of him and the toll it had taken on his family.

Meanwhile, Perez and his family have been joined by several anti-violence and anti-racism groups in calling for Guetschow to be criminally charged in the incident and for his termination as a police officer.

As a result of the incident, the Kenosha Unified School Board later this month is also expected to discuss the matter of sworn police officers working as resource officers and security personnel on public school campuses.

“This incident never should have occurred. No man who has the capability to beat and choke a 12-year-old with his knee is fit for law enforcement or to roam school hallways,” DeVinney said. “The Kenosha Police Department have shown how far they are willing to go to avoid accountability, even in this case, when their victim is an innocent kid.”

DeVinney in the claim states that in addition to the brain injury the girl is a  “victim of police brutality.”

“The absence of accountability for a grown man that choked this child is striking,” he said. “It is for this reason, and on behalf of all who seek meaningful change, that the claimants are taking this first step to hold these defendants responsible.”


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