12-year-old girl sues off-duty Kenosha officer, school district and city arguing her rights were violated when the officer knelt on her neck for more than 20 seconds
A federal lawsuit was filed Monday against the Kenosha Unified School District, City of Kenosha and a Kenosha police officer on behalf of a 12-year-old girl and her father. The girl was seen on video being restrained in a chokehold by the off-duty officer in Lincoln Middle School's cafeteria last year.
In a 14-page complaint, the girl's attorney, Drew DeVinney, says officer Shawn Guetschow used "unreasonable and excessive" force and that he "acted with malice or in reckless disregard" of the girl's rights, when he restrained her during a lunch room fight, by placing his knee on her neck for more than 20 seconds.
Guetschow had been working part-time as a school security guard for the school district, while also serving as a Kenosha police officer. He resigned from his role with the school district a few days following the incident, but in his resignation letter called out the district for a lack of support.
In a statement Tuesday, the Kenosha Police Department, confirmed that Guetschow is still an active officer with the department. Guetschow was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of three separate investigations, however the department found that Guetschow did not violate anyone's civil rights, nor committed a crime, and was returned to active duty last week, the statement reads.
Regarding the lawsuit, the department choose to withhold any statement or comment regarding the matter.
DeVinney argues the school district and city's police department are also to blame for a lack of training and for being aware of Guetschow's "short temper."
Because the girl is a minor, her father, Jerrel Perez, is also named as a plaintiff in the suit.
The incident took place March 4 and was captured on surveillance footage. The video appears to show another student approach Perez's daughter, before Perez's daughter pushes the other student and a fight ensues.
Guetschow intervenes by pulling the other student off Perez's daughter. Guetschow then scuffles with Perez's daughter, before falling to the ground and striking his head on a cafeteria table.
Guetschow then restrained Perez's daughter by pushing her head into the ground and placing her in a chokehold restraint, for more than 20 seconds, using his knee on the girl's neck. The officer then handcuffs Perez's daughter and walks her out of the cafeteria.
According to the complaint filed by the girl's attorneys, Perez's daughter could not breathe while Guetschow had his knee on her neck, she suffered both physical and mental trauma, and as a result of the incident decided to change schools. The girl now resides with Perez in Illinois.
"(Perez's daughter) has (been) treated for nearly a year for the physical and emotional injuries that she sustained. Although she is not healed from her trauma, she is ready to stand up for herself," DeVinney said in a statement.
DeVinney argues that because the Kenosha Police Department has off-duty policies, Guetschow was subject to those while he worked part-time as a security guard for the district. The city has failed to train and properly supervise Guetschow, the complaint states.
DeVinney said his clients are demanding a jury trial in the civil case.
The Kenosha County District Attorney's Office declined to charge Guetschow, DeVinney said, but originally charged Perez's daughter. DeVinney said there was never a conviction and "that case is closed."
At the time of the incident, Kenosha police requested the FBI look into the matter, a spokesperson with the FBI would not confirm the existence of an investigation, nor comment on the matter Tuesday.
Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBentley1@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DrakeBentleyMJS.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kenosha girl sues school district, officer who placed knee on neck