OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A former security guard at Oakland High School testified on Thursday that he was justified in using force against a student in a wheelchair in a highly-publicized incident at the school last year because the student was actively resisting him and threatened to kill him.
Marchell Mitchell, 24, who faces two felony counts each of inflicting corporal injury to a child and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, alleged that the student, 18-year-old Francisco Martinez, is a gang member who was one of the most unruly students at the school and disobeyed orders to go to class in the May 19, 2014, incident, which was captured on video.
Mitchell, who was fired after the clash, said at one point Martinez told him, “I’ll kill you, watch out, you’ll get yours.”
Martinez, who has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and uses a wheelchair, testified on Tuesday that Mitchell pushed him out of his chair several times and punched him four times after he was handcuffed.
Martinez admitted he got to school late that day but said he’s late to school sometimes because some bus drivers don’t stop for him since he’s in a wheelchair and they don’t want to take the time to use a ramp to help him board.
Martinez said he was waiting for his second period class to start but Mitchell insisted on pushing him in his wheelchair to his first class.
Martinez said the confrontation occurred after he told Mitchell to stop pushing his wheelchair, explaining that his wheelchair “is like an extension of me” and he doesn’t like it when other people push him.
But Mitchell testified on Thursday that he had pushed Martinez to class on multiple previous occasions when Martinez was away from his classroom without a pass.
Mitchell said the situation escalated after Martinez repeatedly pushed his hands away when he tried to push him to his class and Martinez spat at another guard, Shalandra Cotton, who was also trying to get him to his class.
Mitchell said, “After he spat at her, I thought he must think he’s untouchable to do that.”
Mitchell admitted that Martinez’s wheelchair tipped over several times but said the first time it was because Martinez was leaning over in his wheelchair while he and Cotton were trying to put him in an elevator.
Mitchell said he purposefully threw Martinez to the ground and slapped him twice when they got to an upper floor because Martinez had spat in his face.
When his lawyer, Nabiel Ahmed, asked him why he felt the need to slap a handcuffed student who was in a wheelchair, Mitchell said, “Slapping was necessary because he just spat in my face.”
Mitchell denied Martinez’s allegation that he punched him, saying, “There’s a big difference between a slap and a punch.”
Mitchell will face cross-examination by prosecutor Gemma Daggs when his trial resumes on Monday.
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