SDSU investigates excessive force allegation

© 2017-Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University officials and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation are investigating an allegation that a University Police Department officer used excessive force against a 17-year-old visitor on campus Saturday night.

The teenager’s mother claims a UPD officer slammed her daughter to the ground, causing bruises and dislocated bones in her hand, when her daughter did nothing wrong.

University spokesman Mike Lockrem confirmed Monday that there was an ongoing investigation into the matter and said the university “has engaged an outside agency to investigate.”

Melissa Mentele of Emery said in a public Facebook post early Sunday morning that her two daughters called her and her husband at 11:27 p.m. Saturday from Brookings.

“We answered to what a parent would call absolute hell. The horrified screams, panic and hysteria in both girls’ voices combined with the sounds of a violent attack will be on replay in my head for a long time,” Mentele wrote on Facebook Sunday.

Mentele wrote on Facebook this weekend that her daughters were walking on campus with a group of friends Saturday night when the officer approached them. She claimed the officer told the group to sit on the ground and forced her younger daughter to the ground when she couldn’t sit due to a recent knee injury. The younger daughter is facing a charge of resisting arrest, and the older daughter is facing an obstruction charge for trying to intervene, Mentele said.

Mentele’s initial Facebook post about the incident has gone viral, with more than 2,100 shares as of Monday afternoon.

She has not responded to messages from the Register requesting an interview and said online that she cannot share any more details on the incident at this time, per the advice of her attorney.

Lockrem said the situation is a personnel matter and declined to name the officer or say whether he is still on active duty.

Lockrem said SDSU officials were made aware of the allegations on Sunday and immediately started investigating.

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