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Caught on Tape: Cop Beats Special Needs Student On Camera

(CBS 2 Chicago)
Photo: Security cameras captured the beating of a 15-year-old Special Education student by a police officer.

DOLTON, Ill. (CBS2) A 15-year-old special education student was walking down a hallway at school when he says a police officer grabbed him and threw him to the ground. The teenager says he was beaten and nearly suffocated and much of it was caught on tape.

The teen told his story to CBS 2 Chicago reporter Dave Savini.

Security cameras captured the beating of Marshawn Pitts, who says the officer started shouting and swearing at him because his shirt wasn't tucked in.

"I was tucking my shirt in," Pitts said.

But it's what happened next that had Marshawn Pitts worried for his life. Pitts says the officer came at him suddenly.

"It was just like boom," Pitts said.

He says he was blindsided by the officer, thrown into lockers and struck repeatedly.

In the video, you can see that he gets slammed to the ground and his face smashed into the floor. His nose was broken. Pitts says he was bleeding.


"All this on the outside of my mouth was busted," he said.

He calls this treatment violent and unnecessary, especially considering he was attending the Academy for Learning High School in Dolton for students like him with Special Education needs.

When he was younger, he suffered a brain injury and now has a learning disability. The school for special needs was supposed to help him and understand his situation.

"Yeah, but instead I got beaten on by police," Pitts said.

The officer in question was a Dolton police officer, and the hold he used on Pitts can be a dangerous one.

"The officer was in his face because he didn't have his shirt tucked in," said Pitts' attorney Ed Manzke. "That's the officer put in that school to protect these kids, and instead of doing that, this officer is literally assaulting this kid."

Zena Naiditch of Equip for Equality, a legal advocacy group that fights for the rights of people with disabilities, looked at the video and said the type of physical restraint used by the officer has killed students.

"It's called a face-down take-down, and kids and adults often die because they can't breathe," Naiditch said.

A Government Accounting Office report released in May, just one day before the officer's use of the hold on Pitts, found face-down take-downs led to at least 20 deaths nationwide.

Currently eight states prohibit the use of this hold. Illinois is not one of them.

"So we don't actually know how common these incidents are, and that's outrageous," Naiditch said.

Pitts says he was terrified and begged the officer to stop.

"I couldn't breathe,'" Pitts said. "I was like, 'let me up.'"

Naiditch says it shouldn't have happened.

"He's getting a beating, and he's getting a beating on an issue that has nothing to do with danger, it has to do with dress code," Naiditch said.

No one from the Academy of Learning in Dolton would talk to the Chicago station about the alleged abuse.

Marshawn Pitts's attorney Ed Manzke says he has transferred to another school and is planning to file a lawsuit. The State Board of Education says no one from the school reported the use of forceful restraint to them.

Story Contributed by CBS 2 Chicago Investigative Reporter, Dave Savini.

(CBS 2 Chicago)
Award-winning Chicago journalist Dave Savini serves as investigative reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. Savini, whose exclusive investigations have earned him broadcast journalism's top honors, began work at CBS 2 in July 2004. He was recently awarded broadcast journalism's most coveted national award, a 2008 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for his investigation exposing gaping holes in security at O'Hare International Airport.
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