PASCO COUNTY, FL — A school resource officer recorded taking a female Sunlake High School student to the ground Tuesday will return to duties there soon, according to Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
- Nocco: "I think his conduct was good."
- Deputy a 24-year veteran, SRO for several years
- Mother of student in incident declined interview
"I think his conduct was good. I think his conduct was above and beyond," Nocco said Wednesday.
The sheriff said Deputy Rich Stackon was called in to assist school staff after their repeated requests for a student to leave Sunlake's cafeteria were ignored.
Austin Garry, a sophomore student who said he was in the cafeteria at the time, said the student had been walking up and down the room and yelling.
Body cam video appears to show her sitting at a table when Stackon approached. Stackon repeatedly asks the student to leave the table and speak with him, at one point walking outside and beckoning for her to follow.
"He was doing everything possible to de-escalate the situation and get her out of that cafeteria as quickly as possible," Nocco said.
Students recorded encounter on cell phones
Cell phone video seems to show Stackon trying to physically remove the student. Others who were there had different takes on what happened in the moments before the take down.
"She took her arm like this," said Garry, raising his arm, "It looked like she was moving forward towards the cop to hit him."
"It looked like she was trying to resist him from grabbing her," said junior Natalie Cruz, 17, who recorded one of the cell phone videos that circulated on social media.
It was after this action that the student ended up on the ground.
Nocco said a sheriff's office video of a conversation with his staff and the students' parents includes Stackon explaining his actions to the girl's father.
"He says, 'Look, I did everything I could do. I didn't want to take her, I didn't want to pepper spray her,'" Nocco said.
No notable incidents on deputy's 24-year record
The sheriff said Stackon is a 24-year veteran of the sheriff's office and has been an SRO for several years with no notable incidents in his file. Nocco said the situation was reviewed by supervisors and by the Professional Standards Unit.
He concluded by saying he stands behind Stackon's actions and that he'll return to SRO duty at Sunlake soon.
Garry's father, Matthew Garry, said he's seen the video and feels comfortable with Stackon returning.
"Sometimes officers need to do what they need to do," Matthew Garry said. However, he added, "I think it was a little aggressive. She went down hard, and nobody wants to see a kid ever get hurt."
"He had to make a split-second decision," Nocco said. "It's very easy for everybody else to say, 'This is what he should've done, could've done.' But at the same time, none of us were there."
The mother of the student in the video declined to be interviewed for this story because she said her family planned to consult with a lawyer on the matter. She said her daughter suffered a concussion as a result of the incident.