A mother is challenging the school assignment of an Akron police officer accused of fracturing her daughter’s arm while physically restraining the eighth-grade girl.
The incident was recorded on a security camera at Jennings middle school. The video shows Officer Jon Morgan rushing 13-year-old Tamika Williams at a doorway and forcing the student backward across a hall and against a locker.
The officer then grabs the girl’s left arm and spins her around, raising the arm up toward her right shoulder. At one point, the girl appears to be lifted by the officer several inches off the ground while other students mill through the hallway.
Morgan appears to speak into the girl’s ear before escorting her by the arm to an assistant principal’s office. There is no sound to the video.
The student, who has since turned 14, is not charged with resisting arrest or any other crime related to the Oct. 26 incident.
She has since transferred to another Akron middle school. Morgan remains assigned to Jennings while an investigation into the incident enters its third month.
Sandra Williams, the teen’s mother, said in an interview Thursday with her attorney that Morgan should not be allowed to remain in contact with school-age children.
“When I saw that video, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “For a police officer to do that to my child or any child is just outrageous. And for him to still be at the school is even more outrageous.”
Williams and her attorney, Eddie Sipplen of Akron, shared the video they obtained from the school district as well as medical records and X-rays showing the fracture to Tamika’s upper left arm.
Sipplen has not yet filed a lawsuit against the school or the city.
Lawyer alleges attack
However, the attorney said he is troubled by the police department’s slow response to Williams’ excessive-force complaint filed in early November. He characterized the incident as an “attack” and an “assault” by the officer against an overmatched, slightly built, 110-pound girl.
“He essentially bum-rushes her, pushes her against the locker, twists her arm behind her back and above her head and breaks her arm,” Sipplen said. “During the entire time, the officer is in control and she did not try to resist.
“There’s no justification for his attack on Tamika. Absolutely no justification at all. Had a regular person done this to a child, he would be charged with felonious assault.”
Despite her daughter’s injury, Sandra Williams said, the girl was not examined by a school nurse and an EMS call to the school was canceled before paramedics arrived. Instead, the injured student was driven from school by an older sister to Akron Children’s Hospital.
X-rays revealed a fracture to Tamika’s upper arm near the shoulder.
School officials told Sandra Williams the EMS call was canceled to spare the family the expense of Tamika being driven by paramedics to the hospital. Sipplen said it was Morgan who canceled the call.
Morgan could not be reached for comment. Police Chief James Nice declined comment. Access to Morgan’s personnel file was not immediately granted through the city law department.
Paul Hlynsky, the police union president, cautioned observers to await the results of the department review before drawing any conclusion.
“Videotapes are not always complete stories and at this point we stand behind the actions of Officer Morgan,” he said.
Morgan’s incident report from October reveals that Tamika was a new student at Jennings after transferring from Innes middle school for disciplinary issues. Morgan wrote that during her first two days at Jennings, Tamika was walking around the school cursing in the hallways and pulling papers off the walls.
“I observed the behavior but never made contact with [the] student,” Morgan wrote. He rationalized that the “behavior is deemed as juvenile, not criminal.”
Morgan also wrote that he spoke to Tamika in the stairwell just before the incident to tell her how “her juvenile behavior if continued could become criminal.”
It was then that Morgan alleges the girl “turned into me with her chest, like a chest bump” and with her hands on her hip said, “Now, what are you going to do about it?”
Morgan then writes that he pushed her against the locker and used “an arm lock to gain control and affect the arrest.” At one point, Tamika “tries to pull away from me,” Morgan said.
Tamika was escorted by the patrolman to the assistant principal’s office, but was never placed under arrest.
Sipplen said that before the incident, Tamika was walking to the office with the assistant principal after being questioned for violating school policy by wearing a coat to class. The assistant principal did not request the officer’s help, Sipplen said.
Tamika returned to Jennings about a week later after getting treatment for her arm. She requested a transfer to Litchfield middle school after attending classes for two days.
Sandra Williams filed an excessive-force complaint against the officer with police officials on Nov. 7. That investigation is still continuing, according to police Lt. Rick Edwards. He declined comment.
According to the family, police have not interviewed Tamika about the incident.
David James, the superintendent of Akron Public Schools, said police officers assigned to the district’s 18 middle and high schools are there to provide security for students. They are not expected to become involved in school disciplinary issues, he said.
James said he intends to meet with Akron police about the incident and determine what, if any, action or changes are needed.
He said Thursday that he had not yet viewed the video involving the officer and girl.
“Officers will have to occasionally break up a fight between students or things like that. [But] most of the time, there aren’t incidents like this, particularly where someone may have been injured seriously,” James said.
“Our whole thing has been discipline in the schools is really up to our administrators and our teachers. The officers are there for safety reasons and not to take the place of our principals.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.