Activists held a press conference in Dallas on Thursday seeking punishment for an officer who intervened in a Sherman High School fight on Jan. 14.

Activists held a press conference in Dallas on Thursday seeking punishment for an officer who intervened in a Sherman High School fight on Jan. 14.


The family of Shatayvian Nelson and the Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers Texas said Sherman Police officer Kevin Garbacik used excessive force when he responded to a fist fight between two female students at the school. They said the Sherman Police Department should apologize and discipline the officer.


"That could have been done much differently because as the officer grabbed her, all he had to simply do was take her to the other side," Wright said. "The family said he should be fired; I think he should be disciplined."


Wright said he held the press conference at the Bank of America Plaza in Dallas out of convenience and lack of finding an adequate space in Sherman. Nelson did not speak at the conference. The family has legal representation with Attorney Anthony Farmer of Dallas, who could not be reached on Friday.


A 17-second video of the fight was posted on YouTube and shows 15-year-old Nelson fighting with another female student at the school. A teacher, Spencer Gartin, steps in between the students in an effort to break up the fight. Garbacik then quickly assists Gartin and grabs Nelson, bringing her to the ground. The video shows Nelson appearing to hit her head on the tile floor.


Sherman Independent School District officials would not comment on the specifics of the incident but said they place the highest priority on the safety of students and staff.


"We understand that more detailed information may be desired about this incident, but we are responsible for protecting the privacy rights of our students," April Patterson, the district’s director of communications, said in a press release. "We are simply unable to comment further, but we appreciate the overwhelming support from the community as it relates to safety, security and our student code of conduct."


A Facebook page started Friday in support of Garbacik, "Stand With Officer Kevin," gained over 3,500 followers within its first 24 hours of existence.


Wright said Nelson received a concussion from the intervention of the officer, and the family claims a bully started the fight. Wright said he doesn’t see this a racially charged incident and an apology would go a long way.


"I don’t think he did it because she was black, I think it was just a poor decision on his part," Wright said.


SPD is still investigating the incident and Assistant Chief Stephen Dean said it is taking an objective view at Garbacik’s use of force, which he said they do in every use of force incident. As of Friday, Dean said Wright or any member of the family has not contacted SPD in any way. Garbacik’s police duties have not changed, the assistant chief said.


"There are a lot of things being reported that are completely untrue," Dean said. "Our job is to separate facts from fiction, conduct a thorough investigation and provide accurate information."


SPD has received differing information as to whether or not Nelson received a concussion, but Dean said some other rumors are not true.


"There is a lot of misinformation on social media that she was knocked unconscious — that is not true, that she was hospitalized — to our knowledge she was not," Dean said.


Sherman High senior Matthew Cross said Friday that all of his interactions with Garbacik have been positive since he’s been in high school. He said Garbacik interacts and engages with the kids during lunch.


"He’s an all-around great guy and doesn’t deserve any of this," Cross said. "It has gone too far, this whole situation. It really should just stop."


As the investigation is still ongoing, Dean could not confirm all the details surrounding the case, but said the department is looking into the matter thoroughly.


"The Sherman Police Department is committed to providing outstanding service to the community and we are committed to transparency," Dean said. "We look forward to presenting all the facts of this case."