An assistant principal at a South Carolina high school is under investigation after police say the man restrained a 15-year-old student in a chokehold, and kept her in a chokehold until she passed out. The Kingstree, SC police department is reported to be seeking assault and battery charges against the man.
This incident began with a fight between two students at the high school.
The use of chokeholds by police to subdue people has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. It can and sometimes does lead to death. A cellphone video in 2014 captured the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City officer who was using the maneuver to restrain Garner.
The police report says the man in this now viral video is Mack Henry Burgess, 69, of Caulder Road in Cades, SC. On a school website, he is identified as an assistant principal, and in the police report as a coach with a doctorate degree. “District officials would not confirm his position, and attempts to reach Burgess by telephone were not successful,” reports the Post and Courier:
In the video, Burgess grabbed one of the girls in a bid to separate the pair. But as the melee moved, his arms turned toward the other girl.
Using both hands, Burgess grabbed the second girl’s neck from behind, according to the video and the report.
Still, the students thrashed at each other.
Meanwhile, the school’s private armed security guard ran into the scene and snagged the other girl under her armpits.
About 10 seconds into Burgess’ chokehold, the 15-year-old girl started grasping at her own neck, the video shows. Another 3 seconds passed before the girl’s body went limp, according to the clip, and she crumpled to the grass with Burgess bracing her fall.
“Oh, she out,” someone said. “She out. She out.”
The student was taken to a local hospital, where she received treatment for what the police report describes as minor injuries.
After the incident, the girl's mom went to police with the video.
A sergeant showed the footage to a magistrate, who agreed that enough evidence existed for an arrest warrant on a count of third-degree assault and battery, which carries up to 30 days in jail.
The local online newspaper Kingstree News published the video, and were first to report. The News reports today that police want to charge the man seen in the video with second degree assault and battery.
Kingstree Police 1st Sgt. Robert E. Lee is seeking to charge the man shown in a Kingstree Senior High School video of choke holding a student until she appears to lose consciousness.
According to a Kingstree Police Department Incident Report, on May 2, a security guard and Kingstree Senior High School Assistant Principal Mack Henry Burgess broke up a fight between two 15-year-old female students. During the intervention, a video that was provided to police by the mother of the girl allegedly choked and obtained by The News shows what appears to be Burgess holding her around the neck. Lee said from what he saw Burgess' hold is not proper. "That's not even trained to us," he said. "We're not allowed to chokehold anymore. It's very frowned upon for even law enforcement to use a chokehold."
The day after the incident Lee sought Assault and Battery 3rd Degree, which carries a misdemeanor; however, after presenting the video and other information to a magistrate judge an arrest warrant was not signed. A courtesy summons was not signed as well.
On Friday, May 6, Lee told The News now that he has reevaluated his choices he will seek Assault and Battery 2nd, which is a felony, through a higher court. "We're still pushing the charges, it's just we couldn't get any cooperation from the magistrate judge as far as getting the warrant signed," he said. "They wanted it to be a courtesy summons, which the family refuses to accept the courtesy summons."
The girl’s mother, Yalonda Nesmith, told The Washington Post Friday that she doesn't approve of fighting, but believes the school's assistant principal went too far in placing her child in a chokehold.
“This is no longer about the fight,” she said. “It’s about how he handled my daughter.”