Community divided over Hanford HS fight video

FRESNO, Calif.

The fight happened around 3:30 Monday afternoon, outside an apartment complex near the school as dozens of students looked on.

On Tuesday, the father of one of the two boys filed a complaint with Hanford police against officer Jason Stingley. While the father says he does not condone the fighting, he accuses Stingley of aggressively taking down his son, resulting in an arm injury.

Hundreds of parents, teachers and students are arguing that point, turning to the internet to voice their opinions.

A cell phone video captured at the scene is now at the center of a Hanford police investigation. It shows two Hanford High School students, in their early teens, fighting for several minutes until a parent unsuccessfully tries to break it up. Moments later you see school resource officer Jason Stingley step in to put an end to the violence. It's that swift action that has community members sounding off.

"I think the force he used on him was unnecessary," says Antonio Montez, the boy's father. "I think he could have broken it up in a different way, in a different manner."

"You just want to get these kids apart before they kill each other and he did what he had to do," said Shelli Barker, a friend of Officer Stingley. "He did a simple push, the kid went down, but it wasn't like he got him down and then tackled him."

Since our story first aired a Facebook page was created in a show of support for the officer. In just three days, more than 1400 people "liked" the page. It was created by a former employee of Facebook and a graduate of Hanford High who attended class alongside Officer Stingley.

"From my perspective it was extremely well done," says Andrew Johns. "It's not far-fetched for an officer to have the option to use their pepper spray or their taser or even their baton, at that point, given that they were outnumbered, didn't have the backup and that it was a violent event."

Now three days into the investigation, Hanford Police Chief Carlos Mestas agrees.

"Did he do the right thing by intervening? Absolutely, yes. And at this point I don't see anything terribly wrong," says Mestas. "The fact is that he stopped the fight. He dropped him on the grass and from the film I saw, it stopped there."

Mestas says police will continue to investigate the case and have a number of bystanders left to interview. Meantime, the father of the boy says he plans to address the issue of fighting to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"I guess he wants to defend himself," says Montez. "But I told him there are other ways. I said you've got to talk to your counselors, talk to the principal, let them know, but you can't keep fighting."

Action News learned that Officer Stingley has been investigated before for allegedly using excessive force. The case was eventually settled outside of court. The students are set to go back to school Monday morning.

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