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Nelson community seeks answers after school incident involving law enforcement injured 15-year-old

Nelson community seeks answers after school incident involving law enforcement injured 15-year-old

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A sophomore at Nelson County High School had two of his teeth chipped and remains in detention after two Nelson sheriff’s deputies wrestled him to the ground Thursday, according to the boy’s mom and a video of the altercation shared on social media.

The Nelson County school division canceled classes Friday, partly because of that incident, and schools were closed again Monday because of unspecified threats of violence. Students at the high school had planned to walk out of class early Monday to protest the treatment of the student, a demonstration discouraged by school officials.

Nelson County schools will be open Tuesday and additional officers will be on site, according to a statement from the division. The Sheriff’s Office identified the students who made the posts on social media and determined that they did not have the means to carry out those threats.

“Additionally, we will continue to support all of our students in the most appropriate manner to process the recent events,” division leadership wrote in the statement. “We will provide them the opportunity to seek support in the additional counseling services and extra school staff provided to allow the sharing of their concerns or thoughts in a productive process.”

The school division said last week that Nelson sheriff’s deputies detained a student Thursday after he became confrontational. Officers were at the school for an unrelated event and disrupted an altercation between two students, according to the school system.

Amber Harper said that her 15-year-old son, Ti’lor Harper, was checking on his cousin, who was involved in the fight, but didn’t know what happened that led to her son ending up on the ground underneath two deputies. A 58-second video posted on social media shows Ti’lor facedown on the ground while the deputies work to handcuff the boy. Meanwhile, students are screaming at the men to get off the student.

“I haven’t been able to see the whole video from the school yet, but I believe it was excessive force,” said Amber Harper, who has lived in Nelson County for nearly 20 years.

Nelson Sheriff David Hill did not respond to a request for more information about the case. Harper said that Hill was one of the officers involved.

Harper said her son was facing two felony assault charges in juvenile court. At a hearing Friday, Hill withdrew the charge involving himself, she said. Harper said she doesn’t trust the Sheriff’s Office and wants the Virginia State Police to investigate the case.

Additionally, she’s choosing to keep Ti’lor in the detention facility out of concern for his own safety and to keep him out of further trouble.

“Just until things cool down,” she said.

With classes canceled, a group of students met outside the Lovingston Post Office to call for justice for Ti’lor. They also plan to walk out Tuesday morning because they don’t feel they will be heard, otherwise. The division’s discouragement of their walkout only gave them more motivation, the students said.

“We want to let them know that we are serious about this, and that we do want those officers fired,” said Seniya Allen, a sophomore at Nelson County High School “We want to go to school and feel safe. We don’t feel safe when we go to school.”

Allen helped to organize the protest and a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for Ti’lor’s legal fees and dental work.

“So we wanted to protest because what happened to Ti’lor was unacceptable, and it shouldn’t happen at all,” she said.

Myia Brown and Angelique McGettigan, juniors at the high school, said the incident with Ti’lor is part of a broader pattern of racist behavior at NCHS from students and staff members, including racial slurs and excluding students from virtual classes, that has led to a lack of trust.

“This was not the first issue but the last straw,” Brown said.

The students want the officers fired, an apology from the school system and better training for officers who are in the buildings so that a similar situation won’t happen again.

Harper said she also wants the officers involved and some school administrators fired, as well as answers about why force was used. Two of Ti’lor’s teeth were chipped during the incident but Harper didn’t know of other injuries sustained.

When she saw the video, Harper said she felt angry, frustrated and irritated.

“He was not aggressive,” she said. “He was not threatening. He did not have weapons. He’s a 15-year-old boy with two grown men putting their body weight on him. Why?”

She’s been able to video chat with Ti’lor, who is shaken up, she said.

“He’s very emotional,” she said. “He doesn’t understand why and how this happened so quickly without any questions being asked or seeing what’s going on.”

She added that Ti’lor was trying to look out for his family members, as she taught him.

“My point of this is to get it out in the public to let other people know that this could have been your child, your daughter, your son, your niece, your nephew,” she said. “As parents and adults, we’re here to help our kids speak up for our kids and protect our kids, and I’m going to speak up for Ti’lor until I can’t speak anymore.”

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