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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Derby student says cops used Taser, broke his arm because of sagging pants

BY FRED MANN
The Wichita Eagle

DERBY — A Derby High School sophomore said today that he was hit by a Taser and had his arm broken by two school resource officers for refusing to pull up his pants.

The Derby Police Department said it will investigate the incident. The officers work for the department.

The teen and the Police Department offered differing accounts of what happened.

Jonathan Villarreal, 17, said he was walking with friends to the bus after school on Wednesday when one of the officers ordered him to pull up his pants. He told them he could wear them how he wanted because school was out, he said.

Villarreal said he had pulled his jeans low on his hips, as is fashionable among some young men, after leaving the school.

He said one of the officers, a man who was larger than him, pulled him to the ground by the neck and told him to stop resisting arrest. Villarreal denied he was resisting.

Both officers kneed him in the back and neck while he was on the ground, he said.

Because they were physical with him, he struggled to get up, but was pushed back down, he said.

At one point as he tried to get up, Villarreal said he felt his arm break when he was pushed back down.

After Villarreal tried three times to get up, one officer fired a Taser at his chest, he said. Although he was wearing a heavy coat, he still felt an electrical shock, he said.

Villarreal said the officers handcuffed him in spite of his complaints about pain in his arm, and kept him handcuffed until paramedics arrived and ordered the cuffs removed.

During the altercation, he said, an officer struck him in the eye, which was swollen shut.

Villarreal was taken by ambulance to a hospital, treated and released.

Derby Police Chief Robert Lee said Villarreal used profanities when the officers asked him to pull up his pants.

Lee also said the officers tried to escort Villarreal back inside the school to the office, but he refused to go.

At one point during the struggle, Lee said, Villarreal stood up and took "an aggressive stance," which led to the Taser attempt.

Three students who witnessed the incident supported Villarreal's account during a news conference this afternoon at the Sunflower Community Action offices, 1407 N. Topeka,

Lee said his department will investigate, as is normal procedure, to see whether the use of force was appropriate.

He said he also has notified the student's family about how to make a formal complaint with his department.

Lee said he expects the department will present the case to Sedgwick County juvenile authorities in the District Attorney's Office, who would make a decision about filing any charges.

Villarreal's family is looking into legal action, according to Emira Palacios, of Sunflower Community Action.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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