Family vows legal action against officer accused of kneeling on 12-year-old girl’s neck

Courtesy of student at Lincoln Middle School

(KENOSHA, Wis.) — The father of a 12-year-old girl called for charges to be filed against an off-duty police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who appeared to kneel on his daughter’s neck while trying to stop a fight.

“She’s humiliated, she’s traumatized. Every day I gotta hear, ‘Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school,'” the father, Jerrel Perez, said during a press conference in Kenosha Wednesday.

“It breaks me because I wasn’t there to help her,” he added. “I felt helpless.”

Videos of the incident, which took place at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha on March 4, were captured by students and went viral.

Perez said that after the incident took place, he thought that his daughter was trying to get out of her punishment when she complained about pain in her neck, but said that hours later he watched the video.

“I want to see this officer get charged,” Perez said, adding that his daughter is in therapy and seeing a doctor due to a neck injury.

The Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha Unified School District announced earlier this month that they have launched an investigation into the incident.

A video taken by one of the students at the school was obtained by ABC News and shows the officer responding to a reported fight between two students.

The 12-year-old girl, who is in the sixth grade, appears to push the officer and then he pins her to the ground and appears to kneel on her neck, according to the video. It is unclear what happened before or after.

The Kenosha Police Department released a statement on March 7 addressing the incident.

According to KPD, after a fight broke out between two students in the cafeteria during lunch, Kenosha Unified School District employees, including the off-duty officer, intervened and one staff member was injured.

“K.P.D. has watched the video clip and has seen the photo which has been widely shared on social media over the weekend. We are keenly aware of the significant sensitivity surrounding the photo. K.P.D., together with K.U.S.D. is investigating the incident in its entirety while being cautious not to make conclusions based off of a small piece of information shared on social media,” police said. “Both agencies will look to our respective policies and procedures for guidance in this circumstance. It is the highest priority of those officers who work in our schools to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our children and staff.”

The officer is a 37-year-old male with four years of service at KPD, police said, but when asked by ABC News whether the officer’s identity will be revealed, a KPD spokesman declined to comment.

Tanya Ruder, chief communications officer for the Kenosha Unified School District, told ABC News on March 8 that the officer is a “part-time KUSD employee, who was hired as an off-duty Kenosha police officer,” and is “currently on a paid leave from the district.”

“We appreciate your patience as we work with the Kenosha Police Department to investigate the facts surrounding this incident,” she added.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for updates on the investigation.

Family attorney Drew DeVinney said during the press conference Wednesday that the family is going to take legal action against police and the school soon.

DeVinney disputed the allegation that the girl pushed the officer and said that she was charged with “disorderly conduct.”

Asked if the girl is facing any charges, police declined to comment.

Perez expressed outrage over the police officer’s tactics, comparing the image to George Floyd — the Minnesota man who was killed in May 2020 after a police officer placed a knee on his neck for nine minutes.

Amid a national push for police reform after Floyd’s death, Wisconsin banned the use of police chokeholds in June 2021 except in life-threatening situations or when a police officer has to defend themselves. Chokeholds include various neck restraints.

DeVinney said Wednesday that the police and the school have refused to share video captured on security cameras of the incident with the family.

Ruder told ABC News last week that they cannot release the footage as this is a pending investigation.

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