Family searches for answers in teen's altercation

Family searches for answers in teen's altercation

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WELLSTON • The mother of a Normandy High School student critically injured in an altercation with a school resource officer said she wants to know what really happened.

Evelyn Woods said her son, Damontae, 18, suffered a heart rupture after a school resource officer chased him down for loitering in the hallway and being late to class the morning of Oct. 21.

Damontae Woods is in critical condition at St. Louis Children's Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"All we know is he was in an altercation," Evelyn Woods said Wednesday by phone. "We've tried to get in touch with school officials, but nobody's shown up."

Woods' family attorney Bob Herman said Damontae and another student apparently were loitering in a school hallway and late to class when the guard started chasing them. Relatives claim the guard chased Damontae outside the school, tackled him to the asphalt, drove a knee into his chest and put handcuffs on him.

Wellston Police Chief G.T. Walker said police were called to the school for a report of a 'sick case" about 9:30 that morning. Responding officers were told a student was having difficulty breathing.

Walker said police did not begin an investigation into the incident until last week, when a television news reporter told him of the severity of Damontae's injuries and the family's allegations. Investigators are planning to meet with the teen's relatives next week to obtain medical records and details of the incident.

Evelyn Woods said her son was in good health until last month's incident and that no pre-existing conditions existed with the 5-foot-1, 120-pound teen that could have contributed to his injuries.

Wednesday night, Normandy School District officials addressed the matter at a scheduled board meeting by reading a prepared statement that gave no details of the incident. A district spokesman did say the accused officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Evelyn Woods said Damontae has improved a lot since the incident. He is responding to visitors using head and hand motions. He was taken off a ventilator Sunday and doctors expect he will be able to speak again soon.

"It's going to cause significant problems for him for the rest of his life," said Herman.

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