Off-duty Kenosha officer working as school security guard sued for kneeling on 12-year-old girl's neck
An Illinois father has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that an off-duty police officer working as a school security guard improperly restrained his 12-year-daughter during a fight at a Wisconsin middle school last year. Jerrel Perez, the father of the girl – referred to as Jane Doe throughout the lawsuit – alleges that Shawn Guetschow used excessive force and inflicted lasting injuries on his daughter.
In the lawsuit, which was filed Monday, Perez alleges that during the March 4, 2022 altercation at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Guetschow used an illegal chokehold to restrain the girl. Guetschow is also a Kenosha police officer but was not on duty at the time of the incident, officials have said.
Guetschow is accused in the lawsuit of pushing his right knee into the back of the girl's neck while simultaneously pushing her head into the cafeteria floor, placing his entire body weight against the girl's neck, and using unreasonable force to restrain the child.
Perez alleges in the lawsuit that his daughter couldn't breathe while Guetschow's knee was on her neck. She sustained a traumatic brain injury and still suffers recurring headaches, according to the lawsuit.
Wisconsin passed a law in 2021 prohibiting police from using chokeholds except as a last resort, joining a host of other states that passed similar statutes in the wake of widespread protests over Floyd's death.
The Wisconsin law does not lay out any penalties for officers that employ chokeholds, however, leaving it to prosecutors to decide whether other charges such as assault or reckless endangerment might apply in such situations. Guetschow was not charged in the middle school incident, court records show.
The Kenosha Police Department requires officers to follow its policy and procedures when making off-duty arrests. The lawsuit accuses the city of failing to train its officers to work as off-duty security guards and the school district with failing to train its security guards.
The girl, who had moved to Kenosha in 2021, was described as a "respectful student" in her school records, court documents said. Perez currently resides in Illinois.
On March 18, the Kenosha Unified School District released surveillance video of the incident, CBS Chicago reported. The video showed Guetschow trying to break up a fight between two girls. While trying to pull the girls apart, he falls to the ground with one of the girls. He eventually gets on top of her, holds her down with his hands and puts his knee on her neck for 22 seconds, the video shows.
Prior to joining the Kenosha police force, Guetschow was an officer at the Lake Geneva Police Department, where his field performance was marked as "unacceptable" and he was described as "emotional, panicked or loses their temper," court documents allege.
The City of Kenosha and the police knew that Guetschow had a reputation for having a short temper, court documents allege.
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