Dyer: Physical struggle between officer, student caught on video will be reviewed

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said his internal affairs unit will investigate a scuffle between a traffic officer and a Hoover High School student that occurred Monday after the student repeatedly ignored orders not to jaywalk across a busy intersection next to the northeast Fresno campus.

The 16-year-old student, who was taken to the ground and held in a headlock by the officer after an extended struggle, was taken to the Fresno County Juvenile Justice Center and charged with battery on an officer and other charges. A second student, who video recorded the fracas and then ran from officers, also was booked in the incident, Dyer said.

VIDEO FROM THE INCIDENT (warning: graphic language throughout)

Dyer spoke with the media Thursday afternoon about the incident, which was widely circulated on social media sites. The chief said the internal affairs unit will review police body cameras as well as the video recorded by the second student to determine if “there were any policy violations” by officers. He said it was too early for him to make any conclusions about the incident.

The chief said it is the goal of the department to always attempt to gain “voluntary compliance” from anyone interacting with police, but added that also depends on the “level of resistance” offered by the person who is the subject of the interaction. He said officers have options when dealing with an uncooperative party, but it is the goal of the department that officers make efforts to de-escalate confrontations whenever possible.

Monday was the first day of the school year. The chief said the motor officer was at First Street and Barstow Avenue when he saw the 16-year-old walking across the street against the light. The officer ordered the student to return to the sidewalk and wait for a green light. He said the student then tried again to cross against the light and turned and smiled at the officer when ordered to return to the sidewalk before continuing to cross the street. The officer contacted the student on the other side of the intersection and the scuffle began.

During the altercation, the officer can be heard on the video repeatedly telling the student to “get on the ground” as the two wrestle. In the background, someone shouts, “black lives matter” and curses. About 40 seconds into the video, the officer tells the student he is under arrest for battery on an officer. After about 80 seconds, the officer takes the student to the ground and holds him in a headlock.

About 40 seconds pass until another officer arrives. It appears the student recording the incident curses at the arriving officer, who rides his motorcycle between the student and the pair struggling on the ground. Dyer said the second officer did not strike the student who was recording and was only was trying to provide space between the two on the ground and the student who was recording.

Dyer said the second student was arrested on charges of obstructing an officer after running from officers. That student was left in the care of his mother. The first student was taken to the hospital for a checkup at the insistence of his mother before he was placed in custody.

The officer was not identified.

The chief said it is not uncommon for Fresno officers to hear “black lives matter,” when making contact with individuals.

“Officers hear it multiple times a day,” he said.