SAN ANTONIO – A police officer for the San Antonio Independent School District was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday after cellphone video emerged of the officer slamming a 12-year-old female student to the ground.
The incident happened March 29 at Rhodes Middle School.
In the 33-second video, posted online by ghost-0.com, Officer Joshua Kehm is seen slamming sixth-grader Janissa Valdez to the ground.
Students can be heard in the video shouting and asking the girl if she is OK.
Gloria Valdez, Janissa's mother, said she arrived at the school to pick up her daughter just moments after the incident.
Gloria Valdez has now seen the video several times of her daughter being body-slammed.
"I was upset. I was angry, because I still couldn't believe that he had done that to her," she said. "And then she told me 'Mom, I wasn't fighting. Why would he do that?'"
Gloria Valdez asked school officials about what happened but said she was given few answers.
Janissa was suspended for two days after the incident but has yet to return to school because she, and her mother, say they're nervous about what fellow classmates may say to her.
According to Janissa, she and another student planned to meet up March 29 after school to talk after Janissa heard the other student was saying bad things about her.
"I was walking toward her, telling her, 'Let's go somewhere else,' because there was a lot of people," she said. "Then that's when other people came over and the officer thought we were going to fight, so that's whenever he came and did that."
In the video, you can hear Janissa's body hit a brick pathway, which left her with a swollen bruise near her right eye.
Although she said a fight did not take place, Janissa said a vice principal had asked the girls to separate.
Leslie Price, a spokewoman for SAISD, said the district was made aware of the incident Tuesday. Later that night, the SAISD police chief received a link to the video posted on ghost-0.com.
"We've launched a formal investigation both within our police department and also at the administrative level," Price said. "We need to find out the details as to what occurred, but I can say that we will not tolerate excessive force in this district."
The district released the following statement on Thursday:
"The District launched an investigation (Wednesday) into the incident shown on the video that occurred at Rhodes Middle School. It's important that the investigation be done appropriately and in a timely manner.
Texas state law requires an investigation to be conducted following a complaint filed against an officer, before that officer can be subject to any disciplinary action. The officer was placed on leave Wednesday morning, pending the outcome of the investigation. We are working to interview as many witnesses as possible, to ensure we take the appropriate action.
We have no other details about the incident to provide at this time."
A group of Rhodes Middle School students told KSAT 12 off-camera Tuesday that they witnessed Kehm listening to the girls and trying to try to break up the confrontation peacefully.
The group of students also claimed they saw the officer get kicked several times.
Janissa denies she kicked the officer.
"You could actually hear her head hit the concrete. That's what hurt me the most," Gloria Valdez said. "And he didn't even seem like it bothered him. And he still handcuffed her after she was unconscious."