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Fairview Heights Officer’s Use Of Force Was Appropriate And ‘Restrained,’ Investigation Says

Photo of police car
Jason Rojas | Flickr

A police officer shown in viral social media videos using his fists to break up a fight between two girls at the Sky Zone indoor trampoline park acted within his department’s training and use-of-force policy, according to an internal investigation by the Fairview Heights Police Department.

The officer was attempting to break the girls’ grip on each other’s hair, not punching them in the head, the investigation concluded.

The findings were backed by the independent review of the Illinois State Police and O’Fallon-Metro East Chapter of the NAACP.

An elected city official, Alderman Ryan Vickers, had called for the investigation after seeing the videos of the incident on Facebook and Instagram and asked that the officer by suspended. He called the use of force “inappropriate” given the girls’ age and race, an assessment he stood by Friday after the investigation’s outcome was released.

Tim Mueller, the police department’s public information officer, said last week that all incidents involving the use of force are investigated.
The investigation of the Sky Zone incident found the officer’s response to the “volatile and dangerous” situation exhibited a “tremendous amount of restraint.”

“While some initially shared images made it appear the officer was improperly striking one of the participants; the branch observed the officer merely striking the hands/forearms of one participant to beak the grip of another individual’s hair,” the statement said.

About 10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26, officers from Fairview Heights and other police departments were sent to Sky Zone, 10850 Lincoln Trail, to disperse a crowd of more than 200 patrons.

While officers were there, several fights broke out in the business’s vestibule and parking lot.

Officers took four juveniles into custody for disorderly conduct and resisting police. All were released to their parent’s custody.

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.