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Ex-cop charged in use of force against student

A screen capture image shows former Farmington police officer Zachary Christensen restraining an 11-year-old girl at Mesa View Middle School on Aug. 27, 2019. (Source: Farmington Police Department)

FARMINGTON – The former Farmington police officer who resigned last year after he was filmed by his own vest camera using force to restrain an 11-year-old girl has been charged with child abuse and battery.

Zachary Christensen, 36, is accused of a third-degree felony count of child abuse and three petty misdemeanor counts of battery, according to the criminal complaint.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office this week announced the agency was charging Christensen with the alleged abuse and battery of a minor, which occurred Aug. 27, 2019, at Mesa View Middle School.

“We must uphold the law and ensure that New Mexico’s schoolchildren are protected, particularly those who are most vulnerable” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement. “I will hold any individual accountable when they harm a child.”

Steve Murphy, Christensen’s attorney, told The Daily Times the New Mexico State Police conducted a thorough investigation within two weeks of the incident and no criminal charges were filed.

Murphy added the AG’s Office was trying to grandstand and he is looking forward to a trial in this matter.

The AG’s news release stated Christensen is seen in his body-cam video engaging in a physical altercation in front of Mesa View administrators, who are heard in the video verbally disapproving of the incident.

Christensen resigned from the Farmington Police Department on Oct. 1. He had been a school resource officer for four years when he resigned.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe previously told The Daily Times that Christensen violated the department’s policies for unsatisfactory performance and use of force.

Hebbe in a statement to The Daily Times this week apologized for how the student was treated by Christensen.

The department publicly posted the video footage from Christensen’s body camera for the community to watch.

The graphic footage depicted Christensen’s response to the reportedly disruptive female student near the entrance to the school.

Christensen believed the student struck one school official and shoved the hands of another. Hebbe previously said those instances did not occur after watching the video.

As the former officer tried to place the student into handcuffs, she resisted, which led to the two wrestling. Christensen at one point slams the student into a window.

She sustained a mild concussion, along with some bruises and scrapes, in the incident.

Christensen wasn’t initially charged in the incident.

An arraignment has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sept. 11 in Aztec District Court.

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