In the suit filed Thursday, Brianna Bell, then a 17-year-old senior at the school, alleges La Mesa police School Resource Officer Scott Wulfing used excessive force when arresting and removing her from campus. The suit further alleges the city of La Mesa ignored similar actions by Wulfing and other officers and failed to discipline its officers.
The city said it has hired a neutral third party to investigate the incident but the investigation was on hold because the investigator has not been able to talk to Bell about the incident.
Bell, who has since graduated and is attending college out of state. According to the lawsuit, the teen went to the school nurse’s office on Jan. 18 because she wasn’t feeling well. Her purse was checked for drugs, and while none were found, a can of pepper spray was found and she was suspended.
She returned to the campus the next day for a scheduled meeting with the principal, then was told to leave, the lawsuit said.
She went instead to look for a teacher, and police were called.
Officer Scott Wulfing told her to leave or be arrested, then handcuffed her hands tightly behind her back, the lawsuit says.
“After causing her pain,” the suit alleges, “(Officer Wulfing) stopped and grabbed the seventeen-year-old girl with both hands and body-slammed her into the concrete walkway at Helix High School. He then pulled (her) to her feet by her handcuffed arms and then body-slammed her a second time onto the concrete.”
La Mesa police Chief Walt Vasquez said in a statement after the incident that the girl tried to pull away from the officer.
“To prevent the student from escaping, the officer forced the student to the ground,” Vasquez said.
A video shared through social media shows Wulfing threw Bell down to the ground while escorting her off campus handcuffed. The suit alleges the handcuffs were on “painfully tight” and Bell told the officer he was hurting her when he “angrily pulled her in the direction he wanted her to walk.”
The suit also alleges Wulfing “body-slammed” Bell to the ground and pulled her by her handcuffed arms to her feet and then body-slammed her again. The second time was caught on cell phone video.
Bell was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest but the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against her, according to the suit.
A D.A. spokeswoman said the office does not discuss charging decision but said the office only accepts cases when they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bell is suing for unspecified damages, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and violation her civil rights.
Wulfing has been on administrative duties since the incident.