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Texas Police Officer On Leave Over Taped Incident

GEORGETOWN, Texas — The game came down to the wire, with Vandegrift High School scoring a late goal to clinch the Class 4A girls soccer championship — the Leander school’s first team title in its five-year history.

Like many other enthusiastic fans, Drew Shaw, 17, jumped a fence separating the bleachers from the field at the Georgetown school district’s athletic complex, even though an announcer had asked students at Saturday’s game against Wylie East High School not to swarm the field.

Shaw said he starting running toward a crowd of players when “all of a sudden I’m getting kicked by something.”

He fell to the ground, then looked up and saw a police officer standing over him. “I just remember him saying ‘Get back over there,’” said Shaw. “I was really confused and I said ‘Man, I’m sorry.’”

Cellphone videos show the officer — later identified by authorities as Georgetown Police Officer George Bermudez — kicking Shaw, then trying to trip another student before grabbing a third student.

Shaw said the officer kicked him in the right leg next to his knee and left him in so much pain he had to limp off the field. The Georgetown Police Department placed Bermudez on administrative leave with pay Monday, as one video of the officer’s conduct racked up more than 20,000 views on YouTube and drew national media attention.

“I realize there are many condemning Officer Bermudez and demanding his immediate termination,” said Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero in a letter issued Monday. “As an executive manager, it is my duty to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into this matter and that all of the appropriate and relevant facts are gathered so that a well-informed disciplinary decision can be rendered.”

Bermudez, who works as a school resource officer at Georgetown High School, was chosen as one of Georgetown’s outstanding police officers last year, said Roland Waits, a police spokesman. Bermudez has worked for the department since 2005 and has not had any previous disciplinary action taken against him, Waits said.

One of the fans at the game, Leander school board president Pam Waggoner, said when students rushed on the field, some of them piled on top of the soccer players and the officer could have been concerned about crowd control.

“I’m sure he was just trying to keep the players safe; it was just his method in which he chose to do it that’s questionable,” Waggoner said.

Shaw said he has had to take pain medications for his injury.

“I’m not mad,” he said. “I’m more like shocked as why a cop would do that.”

Copyright 2014 - Austin American-Statesman, Texas

McClatchy-Tribune News Service