By Anna Hopkins
Published April 12, 2019
Surveillance video from a Chicago high school reveals a shocking incident between local police and a 16-year-old student, who officers can be seen dragging down a flight of stairs before beating and Tasing her -- despite later saying the teen instigated the violence.
The incident began as Dnigma Howard was being escorted out of Marshall Metropolitan High School in January by two officers assigned to the school after a reported "confrontation" between her and the assistant principal. Police said that, as they were leading her out of the building, she attacked them, causing all three to fall down the stairs.
Video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, however, paints a different picture. Howard can be seen standing next to one of the officers, and slowly turns towards him. Apparently unprompted, the officer then appears to grab her and throw her down the stairs. Footage from the bottom of the staircase then shows two officers pulling Howard down the stairs by her arms, holding her down, stepping on her chest, punching her and using a stun gun on the teenager.
Throughout the violent exchange, Howard's father stood by and was told not to intervene. Howard was arrested and charged with two felony accounts of aggravated battery against the officers, who said in their report she “became irate and initiated a physical altercation with the officers.”
The charges against her have since been dropped "in the interest of justice," prosecutors said, but the Howard family has since filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the city, the Chicago Public School system and the two officers involved in the altercation, Johnnie Pierre and Sherry Tripp. The two are no longer working at the school, and one is reportedly out due to "injury on duty."
“The Board of Education and CPD continue to fail our children. An unarmed 16-year-old girl was beaten, kicked, punched and tasered by officers,” Howard's lawyer Andrew M. Stroth said. “Those officers filed a false statement. Their statements are completely untrue and are completely contradicted by what is shown on the video. The saving grace for Dnigma is that this was caught on camera.”
Howard admitted that she was resisting officers at first, but only acted in her own defense responding to their actions.
A spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools said that they are "deeply disturbed and troubled by this incident which has no place in our schools."
Strouth has also called on Chicago's new mayor-elect, Lori Lightfoot, to take on the issue of police violence in the city's schools.