Off-duty police officer accused of kneeling on 12-year-old girl's neck while stopping fight

The girl suffered injuries to her neck and head, the family attorney said.

March 11, 2022, 7:45 PM

An off-duty police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is under fire after a video went viral appearing to show him putting his knee on the neck of a 12-year-old girl at Lincoln Middle School on March 4, while trying to stop a fight that the girl was involved in.

A video of the incident taken by one of the students at the school was obtained by ABC News and shows the officer responding to a reported fight between two students.

The 12 year-old girl, whose name has not been revealed as she is a minor, appears to push the officer and then he pins her to the ground and appears to kneel on her neck, according to the video. It is unclear what happened before or after.

Attorney Drew DeVinney, who represents the girl and her father, Jerrel Perez, told ABC News that the girl “suffered injuries to her head and neck and is currently receiving medical treatment.”

Perez shared videos of the incident on his Facebook account and expressed outrage over the police officer’s tactics, comparing the image to George Floyd -- the Minnesota man who was killed in May 2020 after a police officer placed a knee on his neck for nine minutes.

PHOTO: An off-duty police officer responds to a fight between two students at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wis., on March 4, 2022, in a still image from video. The officer appeared to kneel on the neck of a student, prompting an investigation.
An off-duty police officer is pictured responding to a fight between two students at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wis., on March 4, 2022, in a still image from video taken by a student. While stopping the fight, the officer appeared to kneel on the neck of a 12 year-old girl, prompting a police investigation.
Courtesy of student at Lincoln Middle School

Amid a national push for police reform after Floyd’s death, Wisconsin banned the use of police chokeholds in June 2021 except in life threatening situations or in situations where a police officer had to defend themselves. Chokeholds include various police neck restraints.

“Mr. Perez was saddened and upset when he saw videos of an officer using a chokehold against his twelve-year-old daughter at school,” DeVinney said. “He then felt his world collapse as he listened to his child describe how she could not breath under the weight of an adult’s knee against the back of her neck.”

DeVinney said that since chokeholds have been banned in the state, the “incident should never have occurred.”

“The family hopes to find out why this happened, so that it does not happen again to anyone else’s child,” he added.

Perez told Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN in an interview published Tuesday that his daughter was arrested for disorderly conduct.

The Kenosha Police Department released a statement on Monday addressing the incident.

According to KPD, after a fight broke out between two students in the cafeteria during lunch, Kenosha Unified School District employees, including the off duty officer, intervened and one staff member was injured.

“K.P.D. has watched the video clip and has seen the photo which has been widely shared on social media over the weekend. We are keenly aware of the significant sensitivity surrounding the photo. K.P.D., together with K.U.S.D. is investigating the incident in its entirety while being cautious not to make conclusions based off of a small piece of information shared on social media,” police said. “Both agencies will look to our respective policies and procedures for guidance in this circumstance. It is the highest priority of those officers who work in our schools to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our children and staff.”

PHOTO: An off-duty police officer responds to a fight between two students at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wis., on March 4, 2022, in a still image from video. The officer appeared to kneel on the neck of a student, prompting an investigation.
An off-duty police officer is pictured responding to a fight between two students at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wis., on March 4, 2022, in a still image from video taken by a student. While stopping the fight, the officer appeared to kneel on the neck of a 12 year-old girl, prompting a police investigation.
Courtesy of student at Lincoln Middle School

The officer is a 37-year-old male with four years of service at KPD, police said, but when asked by ABC News whether the officer’s identity will be revealed, a KPD spokesman declined to comment. Police did not comment when asked if there were any updates on the investigation and would not confirm if the 12 year-old girl was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Tanya Ruder, chief communications officer for the Kenosha Unified School District, told ABC News on Tuesday that the officer is a “part-time KUSD employee, who was hired as an off-duty Kenosha police officer,” and is “currently on a paid leave from the district.”

“We appreciate your patience as we work with the Kenosha Police Department to investigate the facts surrounding this incident,” she added.

DeVinney said that he is working to obtain security footage of the incident from the school.

Ruder told ABC News that they cannot release the footage as this is a pending investigation.

ABC News' Keara Shannon contributed to this report.

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