South Dakota State University is investigating an allegation of excessive force by a campus police officer following a mother’s viral Facebook post.
Melissa Mentele, a one-time candidate for state legislature from Emery, wrote in a lengthy public post that her two daughters were victims of a “violent attack” late Saturday after they were stopped by an officer as they walked through campus with a group of friends.
“The terrifying thing is the violent attack was from someone I have spent years teaching them to trust, respect and look for in times of need,” Mentele wrote.
The University Police Department directed questions to a university spokesman, who confirmed the incident was under investigation but wouldn’t release other details.
“The university was made aware of the situation yesterday morning and began looking into it immediately,” SDSU spokesman Mike Lockrem said.
An outside agency will be engaged to conduct an investigation, Lockrem said. The officer’s name will not be released because the issue is considered a personnel matter, he said.
Lockrem would not say why the girls were stopped or questioned or where the incident took place.
Division of Criminal Investigation spokeswoman Sara Rabern later confirmed that the state agency conduct the inquiry.
In her Facebook post early Sunday morning, Mentele said she and her husband received phone calls at the same time from their children at 11:27 p.m. Saturday.
They heard the scuffle play out over the next few minutes.
“We answered to what any parent would call absolute hell,” Mentele said.
According to her account, the campus police officer grabbed her younger daughter and wrestled her to the ground. He grabbed her by the wrist and held her down at one point – causing a dislocated wrist and ending her high school volleyball career, Mentele said.
She was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest, Mentele wrote. Her other daughter was charged with obstruction, she said, for attempting to intervene when her sister was pulled to the ground.
Mentele went to Brookings to pick up the girls and took photos of her daughter’s injuries in the office of the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office.
The photos were attached to Mentele’s post, which had been shared more than 2,000 times by Monday morning.
Assistant Sheriff Scott Sebring confirmed that the family had come to the office early Sunday morning and took photos, but said no report was taken.
“We obviously know about it, but it wasn’t reported,” Sebring said.
Mentele declined to comment in detail on the incident further, pending advice from an attorney.
She did offer thanks to the officers who came to her daughters’ aid on Saturday, however, and said she hopes the officer involved gets help.
“We hope this officer does some soul-searching and gets some counseling,” Mentele said.