• Clover Park school safety officer investigated for excessive force

    By: Siemny Kim

    Updated:

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Students at Clover Park High School are concerned with what they say was a case of excessive force on campus. 

     The officer is now being investigated for excessive force, while a student now faces a charge of resisting arrest, and a teacher who tried to help could be charged with obstruction.

     The incident happened a week and a half ago near the pool on campus.

     Reports of a fight prompted the on duty school resource officer, Lakewood Police Detective Rey Punzalan, to respond.

     Witnesses say the officer hit one of the students, a 14-year-old, with his car door.

     Because he failed to put it in park, the door kept kitting the student.

     Lakewood Police Lieutenant Chris Lawler says the student wasn't hurt.

     "It didn’t knock him down,” Lt Lawler explained. “It didn't cause any injuries.”

     But when the officer then told the student to go to the office, the report said the student replied with a profanity.

     "So he goes to grab the student, who is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and the kids immediately tenses up and starts to fight with the officer,” Lawler added.

     Witnesses, however, say the student was not fighting back and the officer put him in a choke hold.

     Police say the officer simply grabbed the student by the neck.

     Lawler said he thinks the office used the necessary amount of force to get the student into custody.

     “We have to overcome that resistance, What the officer did sounds reasonable,” Lawler said. “I have no problem with it.”

     However, the department is investigating Punzalan for excessive force after receiving a complaint about the incident.

     A teacher, who tried to intervene, faces a possible charge of obstruction.

     The case has referred to the city attorney who will determine if charges will be filed.

     Students are still reeling from what happened.

     One student on Facebook says "I'm disgusted that this happened, angered at how it was handled, irate that they are punishing a teacher for doing their damn job."

     Another says "Police brutality should never be allowed in school."

     "They could have handled it differently," Clover Park sophomore Jeffrey Lauterbach said.

     Last Friday, students wore black in protest of police brutality.

     Now, students they say they don't feel as safe on campus.

     “You can't get in trouble or else something like that could happen,” Clover Park sophomore Alex Avila added.

     During the investigation, Punzalan will not be assigned to any schools within the Clover Park School District.

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