The parents of a boy who attended a Wyoming elementary school say a deputy’s “vicious” assault on their son left him bleeding after the officer restrained the child when he tried returning to class.
The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office deputy is accused of deleting portions of his body camera footage — specifically the “most violent” moments of the incident at Freedom Elementary School on Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne in February 2022, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the boy’s parents.
The deputy did so “in an effort to conceal his wrongdoing” as a school resource officer, a complaint filed Nov. 27 says.
The boy, J.D., was 8 years old at the time and had an Individualized Education Plan in place because of his “diagnosed neurodivergent disability,” according to the complaint.
J.D. remains traumatized from the assault, which led to the Air Force relocating his family to another state, the complaint says. J.D.’s father is a master sergeant in the Air Force and his mother is a licensed registered nurse.
His parents filed their lawsuit against the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Benjamin Jacquot, who they accuse of assaulting J.D. at school.
The married couple is suing on several causes of action, including unreasonable seizure and excessive force in violation of the U.S. Constitution and disability-based discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jacquot is still employed as a deputy, Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak confirmed to McClatchy News in a statement on Dec. 1. He is no longer a school resource officer.
Kozak said the February 2022 incident involving Jacquot at the school occurred under a previous administration, which “reviewed the incident and cleared the deputy.”
“There are always two sides of a story; the county is prepared to highlight the facts in court,” Kozak added.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the family, Matthew Haltzman, Peter McClenahan and Kylie Schmidt, said in a provided joint statement that the lawsuit seeks to hold the sheriff’s office and Jacquot “responsible for the brutal and unconstitutional attack they perpetrated on a disabled eight-year-old boy.”
“The child’s family is still putting the pieces of their son’s life together almost two years after the event,” the family’s attorneys said.
How the incident unfolded, according to the lawsuit
After the DeJesus family moved to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in May 2019, J.D. enrolled in kindergarten at Freedom Elementary School, the complaint says.
Due to his “neurodivergent disability and its attendant emotional issues,” the Laramie County School District established an IEP for J.D., according to the complaint, which specifies he has ADHD.
On Feb. 15, 2022, when the second grader went to the principal’s office for lunch recess as part of his behavior plan, the principal and J.D’s teacher tried speaking to him about what he said to a cashier in the lunchroom, the complaint says.
As the principal and teacher discussed whether J.D. should apologize to the cashier, Jacquot was conducting a “random ‘security check’” nearby, according to the complaint.
J.D. was listening to the principal peacefully and quietly in the beginning of Jacquot’s body camera footage, the complaint says.
When J.D. walked away from the principal and tried to go to class, Jacquot is accused of grabbing J.D.’s arm in the next portion of the body camera footage that the complaint says was deleted.
Then, Jacquot “wrestled J.D. into a nearby conference room using an armlock” before repeatedly slamming his face on the floor, causing J.D.’s face to bleed, according to the complaint.
Jacquot, who weighed over 280 pounds, is accused of climbing on top of J.D., pinning him down and restricting his breathing, according to the complaint.
The “undeleted” body camera footage shows J.D. “pinned underneath Deputy Jacquot while J.D. screams and cries in pain and fear,” the complaint says.
Jacquot is accused of using a prone restraint on J.D., according to the lawsuit, which says this method is banned in Wyoming schools.
On video, Jacquot is heard screaming at J.D., telling him, “I should be taking you to jail!,” the complaint says.
At some point, the principal called J.D.’s father to come to school, according to the complaint.
When he arrived, he spoke with Jacquot and questioned the way he handled his son at lunch recess, accusing Jacquot of violating J.D.’s IEP when his son wasn’t a threat, the complaint says.
“Because, as a law enforcement officer, that’s my primary function,” Jacquot was heard saying in the video, according to the complaint.
Jacquot is accused of deleting portions of his body camera footage immediately after the assault and accessing J.D.’s private school records to include excerpts in an incident report, the complaint says.
According to the lawsuit, the school restricted Jacquot’s access to students’ private records following the incident.
J.D. is now under the care of a child psychologist, attends a school for children “with emotional disturbances,” and fears law enforcement officials as a result of the assault, according to the complaint.
With their lawsuit, J.D.’s parents demand a trial by jury.
“No child should be subjected to the brutality and humiliation this 8-year-old boy endured at the hands of any adult, let alone a police officer who is sworn to uphold the law and protect the rights of citizens,” the family’s attorneys said.
“A part of that rebuilding and healing process is going to require Deputy Jacqout and his department to take accountability for what they did to this child, his parents and the community at large,” the attorneys added.
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