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California school guard faces felony for attack on wheelchair-bound teen

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California school security guard is facing a felony child abuse charge over accusations he attacked a disabled student in his wheelchair at a high school in the Bay Area city of Oakland this month, a school spokesman said on Friday.

A surveillance video shows guard Marchell Mitchell escorting 17-year-old Francisco Martinez down the hall in his wheelchair on the morning of May 19 before suddenly handcuffing him, striking him over the head several times and throwing him face-first from his wheelchair onto the floor.

A fellow security guard then restrained Mitchell as students and teachers ran to the scene, according to the video of the incident released by Oakland High School.

School police officers arrested Mitchell, 23, and charged him with felony child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to appear in court for a pretrial hearing on June 16, according to officials from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

“I’m shocked and deeply hurt by this behavior and apologize on behalf of the staff at Oakland High,” school principal Matin Abdel-Qawi wrote in a letter to students, parents and staff. "It was an aberration, but a severe one, and I assure you I’m treating this with the utmost concern.”

The school is reviewing existing policies and training for security guards at the school, Abdel-Qawi wrote. A lawyer for Mitchell could not immediately be reached for comment.

Martinez, a first-generation immigrant from Mexico who cannot use his legs because of cerebral palsy, has returned to school after being hospitalized for injuries sustained in the attack.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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