Slammed to the ground and manhandled on video, a former student filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court Thursday against two campus police officers for using excessive force and threatening to fire a Taser at another student recording the arrest. Warned for smoking a cigarette outside, the student was followed into the class and arrested for trespassing after showing the cops her student ID.
On December 7, 2014, Jaclyn Pazera stepped outside during a break between classes with several of her classmates from the College of DuPage to smoke cigarettes. According to Pazera’s lawsuit, Officer Vallardes approached the group and gave them a verbal warning for smoking on campus. After Vallardes asked Pazera and her classmates for identification, Pazera told the campus cop that she had accepted his warning, put out her cigarette, and began walking to class.
Vallardes called for backup as he followed Pazera to her philosophy class. Accompanied by Officer Tamurrino, Vallardes entered the classroom and shouted at the teacher, “Is that your student?”
The teacher informed Vallardes that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibited him from revealing the names of his students. When Tamurrino asked for Pazera’s identification, she showed them her student ID with her photo and expiration date visible. Instead of attempting to de-escalate the situation, Tamurrino told Pazera that she was under arrest for trespassing even though she had just shown them her school ID.
As the officers grabbed Pazera’s arms, her teacher began recording the incident on his cellphone. After knocking over her desk, the officers slammed her to the floor and aggressively handcuffed her as she screamed in pain.
“You’re hurting me,” Pazera pleaded.
“Stop resisting!” the officer repeated.
“I had two fully grown men on my back pushing me into the ground, and he said in the video, ‘If you can talk, you can breathe,’” Pazera recalled. “He picked me up and slammed me into the ground harder.”
After injuring her shoulder and wrist during the arrest, Vallardes allegedly threatened to use his Taser on a student recording the arrest on his cellphone. Vallardes reportedly confiscated the phone knowing that the video recorded on it could be used as evidence against him in a criminal trial. Unbeknownst to Vallardes, the teacher was also recording the incident on his cellphone.
Although Pazera was initially charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest, the charges were dropped 10 months later. On Thursday, Pazera filed a civil rights lawsuit against the college and the two officers for using excessive force during her arrest. Previously unbeknownst to Pazera, cops are often trained to take down people who are not immediately compliant while mindlessly repeating the mantra: “If you can talk, you can breathe.”
These cops are no stranger to controversy. In an infuriating video from September, two students at the College of DuPage were on campus exercising their First Amendment rights by passing out pocket Constitutions and fliers that read “America is a free speech zone.” They were then approached by a police officer and threatened with arrest – for handing out constitutions.
“Student safety is of utmost importance to us,” college spokesman Randall Samborn stated after learning about the lawsuit. “Of course, we will investigate to determine the facts and take appropriate action.”
The College of DuPage has had nearly a year to investigate the assault. Meanwhile, Pazera has not attended classes since her violent arrest.
This article was originally published at Free Thought Project