The Denver district attorney’s office will not file criminal charges in connection with an East High School cheerleading coach who could be seen on video forcing students to do painful splits, which resulted in injury.
In the footage, which went viral in August, 13-year-old Ally Wakefield can be heard saying, "No, no, no, no, no! I can't!" and "Please stop. Please stop. Please stop," as former Coach Ozell Williams holds her down.
School administrators fired the coach that month after parents complained and after it emerged he had been fired from another Colorado town for the same conduct.
The decision not to pursue criminal charges follows a detailed investigation by the Denver Police Department over several weeks, the district attorney's office said in a statement, which included dozens of interviews of cheerleader team members, parents, and school personnel.
After informing the family of the injured cheerleader and other East High cheerleader families of her decision Saturday afternoon, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement that she "concluded that the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges."
“The video of the incident involving the injured student that has been widely disseminated is painful to watch," McCann said in the statement, but the coaching practice does not meet the burden required to make a criminal case.
The principal and athletic director of the school also retired and resigned, following the incident.
"The individual involved should not be a coach in high school sports, and he no longer is... The message should be clear that this type of technique has no place in high school cheerleading coaching," said McCann. "The bad judgment of the coach, however, does not constitute a prosecutable crime.”
Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.
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