The attorney for an Oakland high school security guard accused of striking a student in a wheelchair — an incident captured on video — said Monday the student had spit in the guard's face and antagonized him.
Marchell Mitchell, 23, was charged with felony child abuse after he allegedly handcuffed, punched and then dumped a disabled student from his wheelchair in a class hallway.
Mitchell's attorney, Nabiel Ahmed, said Monday he may have been acting in self-defense, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ahmed said the student, Francisco Martinez, has a history of discipline problems and bears some responsibility for the incident as he spit on and antagonized Mitchell, the Chronicle reported. It previously reported that Martinez has cerebral palsy.
“It is conceivable that if my client was acting in self-defense, based upon an aggressive student and a known aggressive student, that his actions may have been, maybe not morally acceptable; however, it may have been justified,” Ahmed told reporters outside Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland after a hearing for Mitchell.
The May 19 incident, partially captured by video surveillance cameras, occurred as Mitchell and another guard were urging students to clear out of hallways and get to class, officials said.
According to a statement from school Principal Matin Abdel-Qawi, the student in a wheelchair was either slow to move or just refused to leave the hallway, and Mitchell began pushing the chair to class.
Martinez then tried slapping away the officer's hands, after which Mitchell apparently handcuffed the boy and continued to roll him to class, Abdel-Qawi said.
School officials said the student spit in Mitchell's face, and the officer struck the student several times before dumping him out of his chair.
Mitchell had to be restrained by his partner before a school official, who arrived moments later, called police, officials said.
Mitchell has been fired from his job.