The grandmother of a Fletcher Elementary fifth-grader who was reportedly pinned to the floor and struck in the face by a former school resource officer said she believes that man should be fired from the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and permanently removed from a law enforcement job.
The grandmother, who is also the child’s legal guardian, spoke to the Citizen Times recently about the May 9 incident in which Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Brackett, 47, struck the child and pinned his knee to the child’s chest, restricting the child's breathing, according to an email from then-Superintendent John Bryant.
The Citizen Times is not naming the grandmother to protect the child’s identity.
The grandmother said she is “furious” about the encounter captured on school video, which she has not seen. The grandmother said she is also upset that she has not been kept informed about the case and has never heard from Sheriff Lowell Griffin or Henderson County District Attorney Andrew Murray during the course of an SBI investigation into Brackett's actions.
“When (school administrators) told me that the officer struck (my grandchild) I was like, how? How does that happen? I was furious,” she said.
Asked about the former superintendent's description of the incident — which the Citizen Times obtained through a public records request for Griffin's own emails — the sheriff described it as "allegations made prior to any fact-finding and formal investigation."
The grandmother said she called Superintendent Mark Garrett Oct. 10 requesting to see the video, but he did not return her call.
Only a handful of people have seen the video, but those include all seven school board members. Only one board member, Stacey Caskey, has spoken publicly about it. She told the Citizen Times it was “visceral” and “horrific” to watch and that she could not understand why Brackett has not yet been fired.
Sheriff Griffin offered an answer to the Citizen Times on Oct. 10. Though, in line with past statements from his office, he did not discuss the specifics of the incident.
"Representatives from the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office ... immediately reached out to the child’s grandmother to make her aware of the incident," Griffin wrote by email to the Citizen Times.
"Deputy Alan Brackett was placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident and remained on leave until the review of the investigation. A thorough and impartial investigation was conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation with the results of that investigation forwarded directly to District Attorney Murray for full review. My decision to retain Deputy Brackett is the result of the totality of the facts and information gained from the investigation. I refuse to make decisions concerning the wellbeing of any employee based on political motives or media-driven fallacy."
The sheriff did not respond to questions asking why Brackett no longer works as an SRO or if he had reviewed video of the incident. He also did not respond to a request asking for specific examples of media-driven fallacy.
On Sept. 23 Murray said he would not file criminal charges against Brackett because after reviewing the SBI’s secret report ― SBI findings are not open to the public, although district attorneys may do so ― he did not think Brackett used excessive force. Murray did not release any details of the report to the public or to the child’s family.
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While Brackett, who was previously "discharged" from Henderson County Sheriff's Office and fired from the Laurel Park Police Department, is no longer a school resource office in Henderson County, he is still a patrol officer with the Sheriff’s Office, according to his personnel record.
What happened at school that day
The child’s guardian said she received a call at about 11 a.m. May 9 from Fletcher Elementary Principal Tammy Deaver, who told her there had been “an incident” with the child and that she needed to come to the school. The grandmother left work and arrived at the school to find Deaver and three “gentlemen” in suits, one of whom was Director of School Safety Scott Masington. She said Brackett was not there.
Deaver told the grandmother that Brackett had “attacked” the child, she said. Then one of the men, who said his name was “Chad,” read Deaver’s written report from a piece of paper. The grandmother said Deaver “had tears in her eyes.”
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According to the grandmother, no one from the sheriff's office reached out to her, only Deaver contacted her. She said Chad said, reading from the report, "that he was very sorry and they do not put up with that and that's the reason why he and the other two gentlemen were there and why the resource officer was removed and he will never be able to enter another school district as a resource officer.”
She said he then told her what happened, according to a report from Deaver, who did not respond to a request for comment from the Citizen Times in September.
“He said that Ms. Deaver had asked (the child) to pull (their) hoodie down. I guess (the child) did not hear her or did not understand her. And she asked (them) to do it again. I was told that the resource officer then jerked the hoodie down off of (the child's) head and when he did that, (they) turned to see who was behind (them) … After (the child) did that the resource officer then threw (them) on the floor, pinned both of (the child's) hands on (their) chest while he was applying his knee to (the child’s) chest.
“Ms. Deaver said that she then heard (the child) tell the officer to get off of (them), (they) could not breathe. Ms. Deaver said at that moment she told the police officer to get away from (the child) and get off of (the child). She stated that when he got off of (the child) he picked (them) up, sat (them) in the chair. When (the child) went to get up to get away from him, he sat (them) back in the chair, striking (the child) in the face.”
The grandmother said she did not receive a copy of the report that was read to her May 9.
She then took her grandchild to the hospital, where staff ordered X-rays to determine if any of the child’s ribs had been broken. They were not.
“(The grandchild) just kept complaining that (they) couldn't catch (their) breath. It went on for a few hours. The whole time we were at the hospital (the child) was complaining that (they) couldn't catch (their) breath,” she said.
The grandmother said that a couple of weeks after her grandchild was attacked, she and her grandchild were called to go to an office in Hendersonville to be interviewed by the SBI. She said she was separated from her grandchild, who was taken into a room to be interviewed, while she was taken into a separate room. She didn’t know the names of the interviewers. She said they asked her questions about what happened May 9.
She said she never heard what the results of the report were, never received a copy of the report and was never notified by the DA what his decision was regarding charging Brackett with a crime.
“I was never informed of that. You know how I seen what the results were?" she said. "Through Facebook.”
“I don’t really have an answer for you,” Murray told a reporter Oct. 10 when asked why he never contacted the child's guardian. “It’s a matter where typically there’s an attorney involved. That attorney is (involved) with me when a decision is going to be made … I’m not sure I had the grandmother’s number. But I didn’t have a discussion with the grandmother, just because they don’t have any outside counsel involved.”
The grandmother said while she wasn’t in the office when the attack happened, she had previously seen Brackett around the school.
“He's a tall guy and kind of a big fella. So can you imagine him putting his knee in your chest at 103 pounds?” she said, referring to the weight of her grandchild, who was 12 years old at the time of the incident.
When told that Brackett was still working for the Sheriff’s Office, the grandmother said, “I don’t think that’s right … I think he should be fired.”
She said while she has never voiced that publicly, she has made it known to her family.
“That police officer shouldn't be able to be a police officer if he's going to be aggressive like that with a kid. He should have handled it very differently. He should have been the adult,” she said.
Karen Chávez is Content Coach/Investigations Editor for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Tips? Call 828-712-6316, email, KChavez@CitizenTimes.com or follow on Twitter @KarenChavezACT.
Ryan Oehrli is the breaking news and social justice reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Send tips to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Guardian says Henderson sheriff deputy who struck child should be fired