Maria Acosta has sued the Bastrop County, its police department, and its school district after a tragic accident left her son Noe Nino de Rivera with a brain injury. Acosta says that her son had broken up a fight at Cedar Creek High School when police arrived. They told him to put his hands in the air, but she says that they shot him anyway with a taser that knocked him to the ground where he struck his head causing “a severe brain hemorrhage”. Randy McMillan, a Bastrop County sheriff’s officer who works as a school resource officer, is named in the lawsuit. Police say that Noe Nino or “N.N.” acted “aggressively.”
The complaint, which can be read here, says that the fight was over when McMillan arrived. She says that her son actually broke up the fight when McMillan arrived and told him to step back. He allegedly did so and put his hand in the air before being shot. We have not seen the answer to the complaint from McMillan or the district.
However, one news report has a statement from Sissy Jones of the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office who says that there is a video of the incident showing de Rivera “being aggressive.” She describes the video as showing a scene where “One of the officers puts his hand on de Rivera’s chest and says, you need to back up and that’s when de Rivera hits the officer’s hand.” “Hits the officer’s hand” is aggression but does it warrant shooting the kid with a taser? Students have told the media that it was McMillan who attacked aggressively and that Noe Nino or “N.N.” was trying to get the officer to listen to him.
What is clear is that the boy hit his head on the ground as he fell. She says that they then handcuffed the unconscious boy and “delayed in calling for medical assistance even though N.N. was in an obvious emergency medical situations.” News reports state that he was eventually airlifted to a hospital or put into a medically induced coma and remains in a coma.
Assuming the video shows N.N. slapping away the hand of the officer, the jury may still be faced with a question of excessive force. We have previously discussed how tasers are now used as a first option where physically restraining people or defusing a situation were once attempted (here and here and here and here and here and here). The use of a taser at a school raises immediate concerns along these lines. There were reportedly two officers present when the taser was used on N.N. What is clear is that police continue to view tasters as largely harmless weapons despite serious injuries documented around the world.
The case also is the latest example of the criminalization of our schools, which we have previously discussed.