The family of a 12-year-old girl has taken the first steps towards suing a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who they say kneeled on the girl’s neck while trying to stop a fight she was allegedly involved in.
Video of the incident, which took place during lunchtime in the cafeteria at Kenosha’s Lincoln Middle School on March 4, was captured by students and went viral.
The family intends to file a lawsuit against Shawn Guetschow, who was off duty at the time of the incident, as well as Kenosha Police Chief Eric Larsen, the City of Kenosha, and the Kenosha Unified School District, according to a Notice of Claim obtained by ABC News.
“The claimants’ damages include the violation of the claimants’ rights, pain and suffering, emotional distress, permanent injury, past and future medical expenses, and punitive damages,” according to the document.
The claim further alleges that the girl, who is identified only as “Jane Doe” because she is a minor, “suffered a traumatic brain injury.”
Attempts to reach Guetschow were unsuccessful and it is unclear if he has retained an attorney.
ABC News reached out to the Kenosha Professional Police Association, the police union that represents the officer, but a request for comment was not immediately returned.
“The allegations within the Notice of Claim are unfounded,” attorney Sam Hall Jr., who represents the school district told ABC News in a statement on Thursday. “The Kenosha Unified School District will vigorously defend itself and its employees in the event that litigation is initiated in this matter.”
When asked about the intent to take legal action, a spokesman for the Kenosha Police Department told ABC News on Wednesday that “it appears that the ‘Notice of Claim’ has been made available to mainstream media; however, we have yet to see anything.”
The family's attorney, Drew DeVinney, told ABC News on Wednesday that the family’s decision to file a lawsuit is “in response to the Kenosha County District Attorney’s decision to criminally charge Jane Doe.”
Asked about the nature of the charges, the Kenosha Police Department did not return a request for comment, but in March police confirmed to ABC News that a charge of disorderly conduct was referred to juvenile court for Jane Doe, as well as the other student involved in the fight.
A video taken by one of the students at the school was obtained by ABC News and shows the officer, who was later identified as Guetschow, responding to a fight between two students.
The 12-year-old girl, who is in the sixth grade, appears to push the officer and then he pins her to the ground and appears to kneel on her neck, according to the video. It is unclear what happened before or after.
Amid a national push for police reform after Floyd's death, Wisconsin banned the use of police chokeholds in June 2021 except in life-threatening situations or when a police officer has to defend themselves. Chokeholds include various neck restraints.
Guetschow, who was working part-time as a security officer for the Kenosha Unified School District, resigned from his role with the school district on March 15, Tanya Ruder, chief communications officer for the Kenosha Unified School District, previously confirmed to ABC News.
In his resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, Guetschow cited the "mental and emotional strain" that the public attention surrounding the incident has brought on his family, as well as what he says is "the lack of communication and or support" that he has received from the district.
Kenosha police Lt. Joseph Nosalik confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that Guetschow is still employed by the police department and is currently on desk duty amid the investigation. He is not facing any charges.
"She's humiliated, she's traumatized. Every day I gotta hear, 'Daddy, I don't wanna go to school,'" the girl's father, Jerrell Perez, said at a press conference in March.
The investigation launched into the incident by the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha Unified School District is ongoing.