Residents of Rolesville, NC, are demanding answers after footage of a police officer grabbing a teenaged girl and slamming her to the ground on Tuesday morning exploded online this week. The incident has raised questions about police brutality in the small, suburban community outside the city of Raleigh.
In the eight-second video clip, a uniformed Rolesville High School school resource officer is seen picking up an African American student by the waist and throwing her to the floor, before removing her from the school's cafeteria. It's unclear who exactly in the school posted the clip online, but it quickly rocketed around social media.
The officer, identified in a statement from the Rolesville Police Department as Ruben De Los Santos, has been placed on paid administrative leave, and the RPD has asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to conduct a third-party investigation into the incident. According to the department, De Los Santos was responding to a fight in the school's cafeteria when the footage was taken.
Speaking with WRAL, the student—identified by the station as Jasmine Darwin—claimed she was breaking up a fight between her sister and another student when De Los Santos grabbed her and threw her to the ground.
"I didn't even realize it happened," she explained. "Like, I was in shock."
Desiree Harrison, Darwin's mother, told the station her daughter has a concussion as a result of being slammed.
"That's not how you handle a child," Harrison said. "She's only 100 pounds. He could've killed her."
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles told local station WNCN that De Los Santos has been a resource officer with the school for three and a half years, and that the incident was captured on De Los Santos' body camera.
Rolesville High School Principal Dhedra Lassiter addressed the shocking footage in a letter to community members. There, she wrote that "I, like many of you, am deeply concerned about what I saw in the video."
"The safety of our students is always our first priority," Lassiter continued. "Our school district works with many dedicated officers who protect our students. It is vital that our children have a positive relationship with these law enforcement officials. Those relationships are built on mutual respect."
Lassiter also promised that in addition to investigating the incident itself, the school district will be working with law enforcement to examine the standards involved with the "duties and responsibilities for School Resource Officers."
In a brief statement on Twitter, the North Carolina branch of the ACLU called the incident a "disturbing use of force… that should never be used against kids in schools" and urged anyone with information about what occurred to come forward.
I have reached out to Ruben De Los Santos for comment. I will update this story if I receive a response.