Videos show altercations between Churchill cop, Woodland Hills students
A Churchill police officer grabs a Woodland Hills High School student by the collar and pulls him into an office after the two appear to trade words.
Inside the office, the student’s attorney says, the 14-year-old is beaten up by the police officer and loses a front tooth.
On Tuesday, the teen’s attorney, Todd Hollis, showed reporters video footage related to the April 3 incident. Woodland Hills High School surveillance cameras picked up the beginning of the dispute but not the alleged fracas inside the office. The officer’s right hand appears to be covered with a paper towel when he leaves the office.
“We want to be transparent. No matter where you live, we want these kids to be protected,” Hollis said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The teen in the video, Que’chawn Wade, faces a resisting arrest charge in juvenile court. The employment status of Churchill officer Steve Shaulis is unknown. Hollis said a medical team at UPMC Presbyterian reattached Wade’s tooth and the teen underwent additional oral surgery.
Churchill interim police Chief Roch J. Kujava did not return a message. Shaulis could not be reached.
Shaulis has been involved in at least one similar incident at Woodland Hills, where he is assigned as a resource officer.
Hollis released a video related to a March 3, 2015, incident in which Shaulis appears to use a stun gun during a struggle with a student. Woodland Hills High School Principal Kevin Murray holds the student down on the ground as Shaulis appears to administer the stun gun three times, Hollis said.
The teen in the 2015 incident, then 15, also was charged as a juvenile with resisting arrest but was acquitted of that charge during a trial in which the tape was played. A judge found the teen guilty of disorderly conduct and he faced probation.
His attorney, Frank Ralph, contacted Hollis three weeks ago after reading about the latest incident involving Shaulis.
“I can’t see anything there that is resisting arrest,” Ralph said. “You can see on the video, there is nothing in the least bit aggressive being done by my former client.”
Hollis pointed out that the 15-year-old was sitting down when Shaulis appears to pick him up and drag him into a hallway in the 2015 incident.
“And since when did a principal become involved in effectuating an arrest while a kid got Tased three times?” Hollis said. “And if this happened to any one of your children, how would you take it? How would you respond?”
Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson said Hollis unfairly portrayed the school district.
“Mr. Hollis is taking a couple of isolated incidents and turning them into a pattern that does not exist,” Johnson said, noting there are thousands of positive interactions between students and administrators daily. “It is not an abusive school. We are proud of the things we do.”
Johnson would not comment on the videos released Tuesday. However, he said, “We obviously would prefer we don’t have physical confrontations. Sometimes they are unavoidable.”
The videos, which do not contain audio, were released during a period of negative publicity for the high school.
Administrators placed Murray on leave Nov. 30 after a controversial audio recording in which he threatens a special-education student came to light. Murray did not report to the school for about six weeks while the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office investigated. In a letter to school officials, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. called Murray’s actions “inappropriate and arguably threatening,” but he did not recommend criminal charges against Murray.
Zappala’s office said it is investigating the latest incident involving Shaulis.
On April 19, the Woodland Hills School Board voted 5-4 to hire Murray as head coach of the varsity football team to replace George Novak, who retired. Before the vote, dozens of people gathered outside the district administrative building for a rally in support of Wade. Many also spoke up during the meeting, urging the board not to hire Murray given the recent controversies.
In the April 3 incident, Murray can be seen walking through the office lobby several times, before and after the incident, but he does not appear to get involved in the physical altercation. Another Churchill officer also can be seen.
Hollis said Shaulis assaulted Wade after questioning him about a missing cellphone.
The officer told Wade that the matter “would end up in court,” and the student exited the school office, according to Hollis. Shaulis followed Wade into the hallway and called him a derogatory term, Hollis said. Hollis said Wade “responded in kind,” and the officer grabbed and pulled him back into an office lobby, and then his office. In the office, he punched Wade and threw him across the room, before eventually handcuffing him, Hollis said.
Wade has been home-schooled since the incident.
Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, [email protected] or via Twitter @bencschmitt.