OAKLAND -- An Oakland High School security guard was caught on videotape last week beating a handcuffed student in a wheelchair and has now been charged with felony corporal injury to a child.
The 17-year-old victim has cerebral palsy and cannot use his legs, according to the criminal complaint filed May 21 by the Alameda County District Attorney.
A surveillance video captured the May 19 beating of Francisco Martinez, which happened about 9 a.m., according to Oakland schools spokesman Troy Flint.
The security officer, identified in court documents as Marchell Ernest Mitchell is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on June 16. Mitchell has pleaded not guilty.
The school district fired Mitchell immediately after the incident, Flint said. He was hired by the district in November, and Flint said "there were no convictions, no arrests, and no red flags in his file."
"Clearly," Flint said, "the district was wrong here, and there is no excuse."
According to court documents and a letter sent to parents by Oakland High Principal Matin Abdel-Qawi, the incident began when Mitchell and another guard were urging Martinez to go to class. After Mitchell handcuffed Martinez to his wheelchair, Martinez turned around and spat on the security guard who suddenly slapped the student several times with great force and threw him onto the floor facedown.
Martinez was transported to a hospital and treated for his injuries.
"He slapped me so hard two times that he knocked me out of my chair," Martinez told KTVU. "I was handcuffed, I had no way to defend myself but by my mouth. He tells me I hope you don't walk for another two or three weeks."
Flint said the school district did a background check on Mitchell before he was hired in November of last year and there were no convictions, no arrests "and no red flags in his file."
According to Abdel-Qawi's letter, two school security guards were urging students to go to class as they lingered in the hallway. She said Martinez continued to linger. The security guard began wheeling him to class, and Martinez attempted to slap away his hands and that is when he was handcuffed, the letter said.
Flint said school district officials are investigating the actions of a second female guard in the incident but have drawn no conclusions.
Oakland schools Superintendent Gary Yee said he visited Martinez at his home after the incident.
"I think the actions we saw in the video were really appalling and should never happen under any circumstances," Yee said Friday. "I went to his house and personally expressed my concern for what happened. He appreciated it. He shared his perspective with us."
Yee said the district offered Martinez alternate placement in another school but he said he wanted to remain at Oakland High. He did not attend classes Friday.
Some students at the school expressed support for Mitchell on Friday, wearing signs around their necks at school that said: "Spitting is a crime. You provoked this."
School officials spoke out only against the beating.
"We consider this behavior completely unacceptable, harmful to our school and community and traumatic to our students and families," Abdel-Qawi wrote in the letter. "I'm shocked and deeply hurt by this behavior and apologize on behalf of the staff at Oakland High."
Flint said Mitchell and the student have a history of exchanging words with each other. Another incident occurred between the two about a month ago, Flint said, though he did not reveal details of that exchange.
"The thing we're doing here is being careful to analyze (what happened), but we're also looking at a larger culture between student and staff," Flint said. "Incidents bubble over, and they're the result of systemic problems. There's no tolerance for this. We're looking for better ways to intervene during conflicts. Adults should be able to de-escalate flammable situations."