A New Mexico police officer who was recorded pinning an 11-year-old girl to the ground and shouting at her has resigned from his position.
Officer Zachary Christensen, a school resource officer at Mesa View Middle School in Farmington, was filmed on his lapel cam, released by police Monday, attempting to detain an unidentified sixth grader after she was accused of assaulting two school employees, including an administrator that she tried to push past to leave the building.
But the girl was cleared of all charges, Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said, as Christensen’s accusations “proved not to be true.”
The 77-minute video, filmed on Aug. 27, shows Christensen pulling the girl’s backpack off, then pushing her against a wall outside then pushing her to the ground.
“I’m not resisting,” she told him, crying, while he tried to handcuff her. “Get off of me — you’re hurting me.”
As Christensen continued to hold the girl down, the school administrator seen earlier in the video began speaking off-camera.
“Officer Christensen, you need to allow her to stand up, sir,” he said. “Officer Christensen, she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment. You need to allow her to stand up.”
“What’s the point of arrest,” Christensen responded.
“I understand that, sir,” the school administrator said. “But you’re not going to use excessive force to get this done.”
“We’re not being excessive,” Christensen said.
The officer also said the girl had been causing problems all morning, including taking “more milks than she was supposed to” from the school cafeteria and throwing one “on the ground.”
Christensen never handcuffed the girl and eventually she was picked up from school by her mother.
The family’s attorney told KRQE that the girl suffered a concussion, as well as arm and shoulder pain from Christensen’s actions.
“While it is appreciated that the principal and vice-principal asked the officer to stop, there is a question as to what the administrators could have done to prevent this from occurring at all,” attorney Mark Curnutt told the station.
Hebbe, the Farmington police chief, said he personally apologized to the girl and her family.
“There’s no excuse for the way this girl was treated,” Hebbe said in a video statement Sunday. “As the chief of police, I am extremely disappointed that we failed to perform at our expected standards. We value our relationship with our community and will continue to work hard to maintain the public’s confidence in our department.”
Farmington Municipal Schools spokesperson Renee Lucero also told KOB 4 that the school district “extends its apologies to the student and family involved in this unfortunate incident.”
“FMS administration is reviewing this incident with the intent of putting into place procedures and practices to prevent another instance like this,” Lucero said in a statement. “The safety of all students entrusted to our care is among our highest priorities.”
Before his resignation, Christensen was placed on administrative leave and the case was referred to New Mexico State Police for possible criminal charges.
A spokesperson for the New Mexico State Police did not immediately return a request for comment.