Student wearing rosary, gets arrested

Published: Oct. 30, 2014 at 10:48 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2014 at 12:41 AM CDT
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Amarillo, TX - Local mother claims an officer used excessive force on her middle schooler at a football game.

14-year-old Jacob Herrera attended Sam Houston middle school's Wednesday night football game. Herrera wore a rosary outside of his clothes when officer Corporal Wilson asked him to remove it.

Marivell Chavez, a witness, says she was at the game Wednesday night and claimed while Herrera was being held to the ground, he yelled, "call my mom" and "I can't breathe."

"You know he handcuffed him and then crossed him across the street right there and slammed him again and he repeatedly slammed the child on the floor," says Chavez.

The Amarillo Police Department says this was not the case at all. And the reason the situation escalated was because the student did not want to comply to any rules and resisted arrest.

"He was fighting with the officer, he wouldn't comply with the commands, he wouldn't put his arms behind his back. The officer used a couple of different compliance holds to try and get him to put his hands behind his back, he did not deploy his taser, he just tried to get him under control they rolled around on the ground for several minutes," says Cpl Jerry Neufeld.

According to APD the use of rosaries can possibly symbolize association with a gang and that's the reason they ask students to not wear them visible while on school property or functions.

"We are not indicating that this is the case in this particular incident but that sometimes our youth are using rosary beads as a sign of gang affiliation or some gang apparel again we are not saying that's what it is, but we have seen it with others here in the united states," says Cpl Neufeld.

In the Amarillo ISD dress and grooming guidelines, there is not a specific rule on whether students can wear rosaries. But there is a line that states students can not wear identified gang apparel by law enforcement agencies.

Amarillo ISD released a statement saying,"Last night at one of our schools, a student was identified as being in violation of the dress code for wearing an item in a manner which is considered to be gang related by local and national law enforcement. A school administrator and liaison officer asked the student to either comply with the dress code rules or leave school property. The student repeatedly refused to comply with either option. At that time, the student was arrested for trespassing."

Herrera's mother, Lori Martinez says her son has never been a trouble maker and the reason he wears the rosary has much more sentimental value and nothing to do with being part of a gang. "My son passed away two years ago, in 2012 and he was teaching Jacob, you know about god and how you know, he should wear the rosary to protect him, so Jacob believes that that rosary protects him and it's in of his remembrance brother."

So, Thursday some parent witnesses and students wore rosaries as a symbol for the release of Jacob Herrera who's being held at the Youth Center of High Plains. "I just want justice for my son and for them to let him go," says Martinez.