A Wisconsin dad sued the Kenosha Unified School District, the City of Kenosha and a Kenosha police officer on behalf of his 12-year-old daughter after the off-duty police officer used his knee to restrain her in Lincoln Middle School’s cafeteria last year, March 4, 2022.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jerrel Perez is listed as the plaintiff in the lawsuit since his daughter is a minor. Perez and their attorney, Drew DeVinney, argue that with the “unreasonable and excessive” force officer Shawn Guetschow used on the 12-year-old, he “acted with malice or in reckless disregard” when he placed his knee on her neck for over 20 seconds.
In a surveillance video that captured the moment, Guetschow restrained the child, attempting to stop the cafeteria fight that had played out between her and another student.
A girl approached Perez’s daughter, who then pushed the other student, and a fight ensued. An employee got a hold of the student that approached Perez’s daughter by the arm, but Guetschow held the 12-year-old on the cafeteria floor with his knee on her neck.
The plaintiffs stated in the complaint that the 12-year-old couldn’t breathe in the position Guetschow put her in. Perez’s daughter, unfortunately, suffered physical and mental trauma, causing her to change schools.
“(Perez’s daughter) has (been) treated for nearly a year for the physical and emotional injuries that she sustained,” DeVinney said. “Although she is not healed from her trauma, she is ready to stand up for herself.”
DeVinney called the officer short-tempered and claimed the school district, city and police department were to blame for the incident since they failed to train off-duty officers for situations like this properly.
Guetschow worked as a part-time security guard and a police officer for Kenosha Police Department (KPD). At the time of the incident, Guetschow was off duty, which is permitted for the city’s police officers as long as they don’t use the police department’s equipment for off-duty or non-City purposes. The problem with the officer using his knee to restrain the 12-year-old is that the police department’s policy prohibits using chokeholds unless deadly force is needed.
Deadly force is only used if the officer’s life is in danger or the officer “has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has used deadly force in the commission of a felony.” It was a 12-year-old fighting another student with her hands and no weapon. Additionally, the off-duty officer had her on the ground with her hands behind her back, pushing her face into the ground. During that time, he had his knee on her neck while pulling out his handcuffs and cuffing her.
If he didn’t know how to use one hand to remove the cuffs and cuff her, he could’ve used another restraining method that didn’t involve obstructing her airway.
Guetchow wasn’t charged, but the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office charged Perez’s daughter, but the case closed, and she didn’t face any convictions.
As for Guetschow, he was initially placed on administrative duty during the investigation but returned to being an officer on Jan. 31, 2023, according to a news release from KPD.
This isn’t the first time a KPD officer has made national news. In August 2020, a KPD officer named Rusten Sheskey was under fire after shooting Jacob Blake in the back a few times in front of his children, causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down. While Blake did have a knife on him, videos prove he wasn’t pointing it toward officers and was trying to get in the vehicle his kids were in with his back pointed toward the officers, who had their guns drawn.
Yet, officer Sheskey wasn’t charged with using excessive force on someone who showed no danger to the police officers at the scene.
It’s unclear if officer Guetschow watched the news because if he had, he would’ve known that George Floyd died due to former officer Derek Chauvin restraining him with his knee for a little over nine minutes. Chauvin, a 5-foot-nine man, killed Floyd, a 5-foot-11 man, with his knee. So, why did Guetschow, a grown man, think it was okay to obstruct a 12-year-old’s airway with his knee knowing she didn’t threaten his life and was smaller than him?
DeVinney, Perez and his daughter demand a jury trial.