ROCKFORD — An Auburn High School student who suffered a skull fracture when he was thrown to the floor by a Rockford police officer during a confrontation at school last year is working with a Chicago law firm to sue the city and school district.
Parris Moore was a 14-year-old freshman at Auburn in fall 2021 when the incident occurred, says attorney Al Hofeld, Jr. of The Law Offices of Al Hofeld Jr. LLC. Moore suffered a traumatic brain injury when school resource officer Bradley Lauer confronted the teenager as he wandered the school's hallways when the boy was supposed to be in class, Hofeld said at a news conference.
Hofeld said the family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rockford Public Schools, the city of Rockford, Lauer and school administrators. He argues the officer used excessive force and that he tried to play down the incident, telling family members that Moore had slipped and fell.
"Police treated a minor, non-violent discipline issue as a violent crime and used deadly force against a short, thin 14-year Parris Moore," Hofeld said, describing Moore as a bright teen who has never been in trouble before at school.
The student was "knocked out cold, physically limp and motionless on the floor for several minutes," Hofeld said. "The complaint alleges that Lauer’s use of excessive force gave (Moore) a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in what is now permanent, brain damage, including a changed personality and permanent deficits in memory, language, and fine motor control."
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said this is a case in which a law firm is releasing part of the story in an attempt ramp up public pressure.
"They are following a playbook to provide partial information and inflame the public prior to filing a lawsuit," McNamara said. "I support our officers and the long-standing relationship we have had with our public schools to provide a safe learning environment."
A Rockford Police Department spokeswoman referred requests for comment to Rockford's legal department. Rockford Public Schools declined to comment.
“We are unable to comment on confidential student matters or any pending or ongoing legal matters,” Superintendent Ehren Jarrett said in an email.
School Board President Jude Makulec declined to comment she said because of the pending litigation.
Video of the incident provided by the law firm appears to show Moore wandering school hallways Sept. 21, 2021, after a disagreement with a teacher. Moore had apparently been sent home the previous day after refusing the teacher's request to lower his hoodie. The next day, he left the classroom when the teacher told him where he could sit in the classroom, Hofeld said.
An assistant principal tries to stop Moore from walking the hallways, but the teenager repeatedly tries to push past the assistant principal and pull away from him. Hofeld said the assistant principal pushed Moore into a room off the hallway.
Lauer, who was working as a school resource officer, attempts to intervene. Part of the confrontation with the officer and school official takes place off camera for several seconds before the officer can be seen in the video pulling the student out of a room, back into the hallway and slamming the boy to the ground head first.
Hofeld said his firm has sent a copy of the video to the Winnebago County State's Attorney's office to review for possible charges against Lauer.
Hofeld said school personnel and police escalated the confrontation instead of finding a peaceful resolution.
A Rockford Register Star reporter since 2005, Jeff Kolkey writes about city government, politics, trends in the Rockford region and more. He is a Rockford resident, a married father of two and a White Sox fan. He can be reached at (815) 987-1374, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jeffkolkey.
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Rockford police confrontation left student 'knocked out cold': Lawyer