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Family of teen slammed by police officer at Rockford school files civil rights lawsuit

Family of teen slammed by police officer at Rockford school files civil rights lawsuit
Family of teen slammed by police officer at Rockford school files civil rights lawsuit 02:36

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CBS) -- The family of a Rockford teen who was body slammed by a police officer at school last year has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Parris Moore suffered a skull fracture and permanent brain damage when Rockford Police Officer Bradley Lauer lifted him into the air and forced him to the ground headfirst at Auburn High School on Sept. 21, 2021.

The incident was captured on security video obtained by CBS 2.

Parris, a freshman at the time, had been wandering the halls, skipping class, when the assistant principal tried to stop him and grabbed him. Parris tried to get away. Then Officer Lauer, the school's liaison officer, took over.

He grabbed Parris, lifted him up, and forced him head-first into the hard school floor. 

"That blow produced a 4- to 6- inch vertical fracture to the left side and the top of Parris' skull," Hofeld said.

The 4-foot-11, 140-pound teen was knocked out cold.

"Parris was not fighting, threatening, insulting anyone," said Al Hofeld Jr., the family's attorney. "Parris was not fighting the officer, he was not resisting the officer."

After Parris was already unconscious on the floor, Lauer handcuffed him, according to Hofeld.

On Wednesday, his family announced a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lauer, the city of Rockford, and the Rockford Board of Education.

Family announces lawsuit after officer slammed teen on his head at school 35:23

Hofeld said the officer used excessive force.

"School officials and police treated a minor, non-violent, disciplinary issue as a violent crime, and used deadly force against short, thin, 14-year-old Parris Moore, who had just started his freshman year of high school two weeks earlier," Hofeld said. "As a result, Parris now suffers traumatic brain injury, permanent cognitive deficits, exacerbated ADHD, and symptoms of PTSD."

Hofeld said Parris had no record of violent behavior, fighting, or other aggression since attending Kindergarten at Rockford public schools.

"The day of the incident, there were no outbursts, no violent behaviors, no threats to anyone. School records show he has never threatened anyone. He has never gotten in a single fight," Hofeld said.

Hofeld said, after Parris was taken to the hospital, the school tried to cover up what happened, telling his grandmother had been scuffling with the officer, and slipped and fell, hitting his head.

"The video shows there was no scuffle. Officer Lauer already had complete control and complete restraint over Parris before he slammed his head to the floor," Hofeld said.

After spending several days in the hospital, when Parris got home, Hofeld said, "he was a different human being."

"He was unable to walk. His hands were folded inward. He looked pigeon-toed. He looked like a crippled person. For weeks, he had severe headaches. He was not sleeping. He was throwing up. He could barely speak," Hofeld said.

Hofeld said, when he first met Parris about two months after the incident, "he struggled to form words and sentences to answer questions."

Parris now has permanent brain damage, including deficits in memory, language, and fine motor control, according to Hofeld. The teen's pre-existing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also has grown worse.

"He is now socially withdrawn, stays in his room by himself, fears school, fears social interaction, fears going places – including doctor's appointments. He's afraid people are going to hit him. He's afraid of the police. He's afraid of the outside world. He has flashbacks about the incident," Hofeld said.

Hofeld said the school initially told Parris' mother and grandmother that he wouldn't face any disciplinary action over the incident. But after they hired an attorney, and lawyers contacted the district and police, they were told Parris was being charged as a juvenile with a crime.

"The family had to go to a meeting, and never heard from them again. It's unclear exactly what happened. It's unclear exactly what the charge was, whether it was disorderly conduct, or resisting arrest, or some other generic bogus charge like that," Hofeld said.

Parris' family has requested that he be allowed to attend another high school, rather than face the trauma of having to go back to Auburn High School, but the district has ignored their requests, according to Hofeld. Because his parents don't want him back at Auburn, he's been out of school for more than a year.

Hofeld said, after CBS 2 first aired Parris' story last week, the district has since offered to put Parris in "the worst school in the district."

"A school which has a 1-2% graduation rate. A school which is for kids with severe behavioral problems; kids who have severe special education needs; kids who've dropped out from other schools. That's not Parris. Parris is a bright kid. Parris made honor roll multiple times in the Rockford Public Schools," he said.

The family is calling for Lauer to be suspended, pending an investigation and disciplinary action as a result of the incident.

"I was so angry. I just want something done to this officer," said Parris' grandmother, Diane Morgan. "He could have killed my grandson, and … it's not even a matter of just him. Any other child. He has no business to be in these schools using force like that."

"Based on Officer Lauer's bald aggression and lack of judgment that he demonstrated when he slammed 14-year-old Parris to the floor, not only should this officer never work in another school, but he should be permanently stripped of his police powers before he kills somebody," Hofeld said.

The family also demanded the district break its silence, and publicly acknowledge what happened.

"For over a year, they have not released any information to the public about this incident – no statement, no acknowledgement, no video, no announcement of any investigation, nothing," Hofeld said. "It's as if this incident never occurred."

Hofeld said he had to sue in order to get records, because the district and Rockford Police Department are not being transparent about the incident. CBS 2's records requests also have been denied.

Attempts to reach Officer Lauer have been unsuccessful.

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