DA: NC officer used 'reasonable force' to stop school fight

Video of the fight depicts the moments during which one of the boys was struck by a TASER


By Michael Todd
The Daily News

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — District Attorney Ernie Lee has ruled that reasonable force was used by the officer who fired an electronic device during a fight between two students at Jacksonville High School in early March, according to a press release by Lee's office.

A video of the fight depicts the moments during which one of the boys was struck by what police call an electronic impulse device (EID). The student immediately gripped his lower back with both hands and collapsed in the grass face-down some time before 11:06 a.m. March 6, when the school's resource officer, William Brandon Potter, was advised of the fight in the school's courtyard, according to previous Daily News reports.

Jharmae Fisher said the boy who was struck is her son, 15-year-old Devron Duncan of Jacksonville. He is a freshman, she said.

Lee's office released information Tuesday about his decision not to prosecute the officer's decision.

"The District Attorney's Office has reviewed the March 6, 2014, incident involving the use of an Electronic Impulse Device (EID) or Taser on a student at Jacksonville High School by a school resource officer and I have determined that the school resource officer did not violate the criminal laws of North Carolina," Lee wrote. "From all the evidence, it appears that the school resource officer exercised reasonable force in the defense of others under the circumstances of this case.

The student, his mother and another family member contacted the Onslow County Magistrate's Office on March 10 about the SRO's actions and the potential for criminal action in response, according to Lee. He said the magistrate's office referred the matter to the DA since an investigation of the incident had not been completed, Lee wrote.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neal met with the mother, her son and the other family member on that same date, according to the release.

"I was briefed by ADA Kelly Neal about this matter and on March 13, 2014, I contacted Chief Michael Yaniero of the Jacksonville Police Department to request any investigative reports," Lee wrote. "The Jacksonville Police Department cooperated with this office in providing investigative reports."

According to the release, on March 14, Jacksonville police Lt. Ronnie Dorn provided Neal with a copy of the report, photos and videos in the investigation.

"The video taken by a student bystander on a cell phone depicts a fast-paced fight between two male students and the actions in the school resource officer in using the EID," Lee wrote. "After reviewing the video frame by frame, I have determined that the officer used the EID to diffuse a potentially escalating situation that could have resulted in injury. The school resource officer exercised reasonable force in the defense of the other student and possibly saved the other student from injury."

Fisher told The Daily News that fights break out among students "every day" at schools.

"I'm not even asking for the officer to be (reprimanded)," Fisher said Tuesday after getting word of the DA's decision. "I know there has to be some type of alert. Someone has to say, 'Hey. I'm about to Tase you.'"

Fisher said she finds it hard to believe the force used on her son by the officer was reasonable.

"It was not reasonable force with someone standing up and walking away," Fisher said of her son's behavior in the video.

She said part of the problem was the absence of adults in the area where the fight erupted.

"The officer was definitely nowhere on site," she said. "He came up from behind."

She said she has tried to acquire footage from school surveillance cameras to establish all the possible facts available surrounding the officer's decision.

"The principal said the cameras didn't cover it," Fisher said of the area of the fight.

Fisher said she has taken up the case with an attorney.

"My hands are tied," she said. "We don't need officers Tasing kids as a way to chastise them."

Copyright 2014 The Daily News

 


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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