JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A school resource officer who stepped in to break up a fight between two Swansboro High School students was acting properly when he used force against one of them to end the altercation, District Attorney Ernie Lee said Tuesday morning.
Lee had been working for several days to investigate the incident that happened last week when the deputy, who was not named, tried to break up a fight between two teenage girls on the afternoon of Dec. 1. A viral video of the incident showed the deputy, who serves as a school resource officer at Swansboro High School, grabbing Jazaria Nixon, 15, and restraining her. She could be heard in the video saying several times that she could not breathe as she was taken into custody.
Nixon, who spoke with WNCT about the incident, said she punched another student after being called racial slurs. Both of the teenagers were suspended from school. The other student was not identified since she is a juvenile.
Lee said Tuesday, based on the videos he saw, he believes the officer did not put the student in a chokehold.
“My job is to look at these this based upon the law,” Lee said Tuesday. “My job is not be guided by what the public may think and what the family may think, or what social media may think or anyone else. My job is to be objective and to reach a decision that speaks the truth.”
The Nixon family told WNCT’s Cheyenne Pagan they are not surprised by Lee’s findings, but that doesn’t mean they are going to give up their fight. They told Pagan they planned on being at Tuesday night’s Onslow County Schools Board of Education meeting along with the local chapter of the NAACP.
“We’re just supposed to accept that? No, it’s unacceptable, said Ebony Nixon, Jazaria Nixon’s aunt. “And we don’t, we don’t accept what the DA has to say. We don’t accept it, and this will not be the end of it.”
A representative with the NAACP said they planned on discussing specific topics regarding the incident at Tuesday’s meeting, including the policy regarding use of force in schools, concerns about police-involved incidents where someone says they can’t breathe and accountability of actions.
Officials with Onslow County Schools and the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office said in separate statements last week they believed the school resource officer acted appropriately “by separating the parties and to get the assaultive and disruptive student to come to the school office in order to calm the situation,” the OCSO said in a statement. When that didn’t work, “the school resource officer attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation, but the assaultive and disruptive student continued her aggressive behavior and had to be taken in custody.”
Lee said he used details from the school system, the sheriff’s office, video from Swansboro High School and eyewitness accounts to determine what actions to take. Last Firday, Lee said in a statement, “Upon review of the facts and circumstances of this investigation, I will make a determination as to what action should be taken as a result of the investigation.”
Lee said he spoke with the sheriff’s office, Swansboro High School Principal Dr. Helen Gross and Nixon’s aunt Tuesday morning before releasing his findings.