Woodland Hills student's tooth knocked out by school officer, attorney says
An attorney for a 14-year-old Woodland Hills High School student said Wednesday a Churchill police officer assigned to the school beat up the teen and knocked out one of his front teeth during an arrest.
The incident happened inside the school at 1:15 p.m. Monday, according to Pittsburgh attorney Todd Hollis. He said a medical team at UPMC Presbyterian reattached the tooth and the teen will need additional oral surgery for other injuries.
“How hard does a person have to hit a child to knock their tooth completely out of their mouth?” he said. “What does a child have to do to justify that response?”
Hollis identified the teen in a press release as Queshawn Wade. Wade attended a press conference Wednesday at Hollis' Downtown office but did not address the media. He had a visible scrape on his left cheek.
Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson said the student was injured as he was being taken into custody by the school resource officer.
“I do understand that the student was injured. And that's unfortunate,” Johnson said.
The student has since been suspended from school.
“My understanding was that this was an isolated incident,” Johnson said. He would not disclose any other details.
Churchill police did not return a phone call.
Woodland Hills School Board President Tara Reis and board member Jeff Hildebrand declined to comment. Hollis said the incident stemmed from accusations that Wade stole a phone from another student. He said officer Steve Shaulis questioned Wade and the conversation escalated into a fight after Shaulis called Wade a derogatory name for homosexuals.
“I don't care if he stole the cellphone; I don't care if the cellphone comes back missing,” Hollis said. “It does not justify getting his teeth knocked out of his mouth.”
The accusations come four months after Woodland High School Principal Kevin Murray was placed on leave when a controversial recording showed him threatening a special-education student. Murray did not report to the school for about six weeks during an investigation by the office of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. In a letter to Johnson, Zappala called Murray's actions “inappropriate and arguably threatening” but did not charge Murray with a crime.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for Zappala, said an investigation into the new allegations is underway.
“Our office is in receipt of the initial report from Churchill Police concerning this incident,” he said in a statement. “ As is always the case when there is police use of force to effectuate an arrest, our office will review this incident and share that review with the FBI.”
In Monday's incident, Hollis said Shaulis punched Wade and threw him across the room inside Shaulis' office at the school. He said Murray witnessed at least part of the fight and helped question Wade about the missing phone.
“He was punched in the teeth which is where his tooth fell out and then he was placed on his stomach where he was later arrested and handcuffed,” Hollis said. “At this point we don't know what the charges are. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.”
Murray's attorney, Phil DiLucente, said in a statement Wednesday that Murray was not involved in the recent allegations.
“The allegations as framed today with respect to Principal Kevin Murray are completely incorrect and wrong,” DiLucente said. “My client was not involved in the incident and casting his name in this light with respect to the alleged incident is not only inflammatory but completely unnecessary and only done to damage his reputation.”
Hollis said there are video cameras that should show portions of the incident and challenged the school district to release the video.
“If you have nothing to hide you should show everything,” he said. “I could care less about the phone. The issue here right now is the assault of this young man.”
Hollis said he had the press conference Wednesday to inform the community about the allegations. He said he is considering legal action.