St. John Sheriff defends deputy seen on video carrying a high school student out of cafeteria

St. John Sheriff defends deputy seen on video carrying a high school student out of cafeteria

RESERVE, La. (WVUE) - St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said he is standing by a deputy after a video showing him restraining and removing an an East St. John High School student.

The video, which was shared on widely on social media, was taken by a different student during a fight. In it, a deputy -- later identified as school resource officer Larry Williams -- can be seen carrying a student out of the cafeteria. While it does appear Williams had the girl in a choke-hold and dragged her out of the room, Tregre said the video does not tell the entire story.

Tregre released new video Tuesday (Sept. 17), which also shows additional footage from the cafeteria fight as well as video from the intake center where they booked the student with charges.

In the new video, the principal -- wearing a white shirt -- intercedes in the fight and carried the girl away first, before handing her to Williams. That’s the point where the original video picks up, with the deputy carrying the girl away.

But, Tregre said the deputy did not perform a choke-hold, despite the placement of his arms in the video.

“We can normally escort someone away from a disturbance, but sometimes you have to forcefully remove someone,” Tregre said. “I don’t believe that officer went to school that day to purposely choke any child, he’s probably one of my best officers, he’s highly requested at multiple high schools.”

And, Tregre said he stands by his deputy’s actions. He said in his role as a resource officer, Williams has broken up more than 30 fights at East St. John High this year alone. Tregre also pointed to the second part of the new video, taken from the intake center, where the student can be seen apologizing, then hugging Williams.

Tregre said he is frustrated by violence in schools and said his deputies have no choice but to safely intervene.

“I think based on what I heard from students and teachers and administrators, I believe this officer did the best he could do with a very violent situation. Going on, the administration got involved, then it was passed onto a uniformed officer," Tregre said.

What’s more, Tregre said this is the first complain lodged against the deputy. Even so, Tregre said the student’s family told him they are still going to proceed with a formal complaint, despite having watched all the videos with Tregre.

Tregre said SJPSO will finish their internal investigation into Williams and are still conducting witness interviews.

The student was arrested, Tregre said, on fighting charges.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District issued a statement saying, "St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools and the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office are working toward the same goal: keeping our community and our schools safe. The superintendent, the sheriff and both agencies’ staff members are in constant contact in order to achieve this. Our on-duty teacher quickly intervened during this incident and staff members then appropriately turned the student over to the resource officer.

Our records show that there have been far fewer than 30 physical altercations on the East St. John High School campus this year. Regardless, even one incident is too many and we have recently moved to a zero tolerance policy on all of our campuses.

The safety of our students is our top priority and we will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Office, school resource officers, our staff members and our students to provide an environment that is conducive to learning at all times."

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