After a 13-year-old appeared to playfully push a Louisville Metro Police officer in the hallway of Olmsted Academy North in January, the officer picked the teen up by his neck and choked him until he went limp, according to a video shown in court Thursday.

The middle-schooler was then dropped to the ground, where he didn't move for more than 20 seconds.

“It was consistent with strangulation,” Sgt. Arnold Rivera testified Thursday in the assault case of Officer John Hardin, a Jefferson County Public School resource officer who has been charged with assaulting two 13-year-olds in separate incidents in January at Olmstead.

In a probable cause hearing Thursday, Rivera, with the department's public integrity unit, testified that it appears the Jan. 27
incident began with “horseplay” from the teen.

The 13-year-old told police he was trying to “chest bump” Hardin but the officer was not paying attention and lost his balance, falling on the ground, Rivera said. The teen admitted to police he laughed and clapped and then saw Hardin get up and come after him, appearing to be angry.

Hardin put his arm around the teen's neck and lifted him off the ground, the video shows. Rivera said the teen tapped Hardin's arm to try to get the officer to stop, as he couldn't breathe.

“In approximately six seconds, the child's feet stopped kicking” and he went unconscious, Rivera said.

When Hardin let go of the child,
the teen fell to the floor, hitting his head and remaining still for about 20 seconds, Rivera testified. The teen stayed on the ground for about five minutes with Hardin hovering above him before the officer handcuffed him, Rivera said.

“He asked how he ended up on the ground because he didn't remember,” Rivera said of the teen. “He was crying because he thought he was going to get arrested.”

Hardin consoled the teen, saying
he shouldn't have “been playing” and took him to the principal's office, Rivera said. The teen said he had trouble breathing but did not tell school officials what had happened. Eventually, Hardin took the teen home.

The teen's mother told Rivera that Hardin called her saying there was an “incident at school” and he had to take her child down, but did not want to arrest him because he was a good kid. The mother was not told the teen was choked or lost consciousness, nor was he given medical treatment, Rivera said in court.

Rivera later asked Dr. William Smock, a forensic examiner, to examine the teen.
Smock determined the child had been strangled and told Rivera the “child's brain had been deprived of oxygen.”

Under questioning from Brian Butler, an attorney for Hardin, Rivera said no one from the school or the teen's family told police the juvenile appeared to have any injuries. And Rivera said he didn't notice any obvious bruising on the teen's neck.

Butler asked that the assault charge be dismissed as there was no medical evaluation or evidence of injury in the days after the incident.

"There is simply no evidence this child suffered a serious physical injury," he said.

But a prosecutor said the teen was "lucky" he was strangled for only six seconds because it could have been fatal after eight seconds.

"This is a 13-year-old child who did nothing wrong," said Assistant County Attorney Ingrid Geiser. "He was playing around and this defendant's response was so completely over the top and ... dangerous to this child."

A judge declined to dismiss the assault charge and waived the case to the grand jury.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad has suspended Hardin without pay, calling the allegations "egregious."

Five days before the choking incident, Hardin is accused of pushing a 13-year-old "without justification" and then punching him on belief the teen had cut lunch line, according to an arrest citation. Hardin then filed charges against the teen for menacing and resisting arrest, "based on facts he knew to be false," according to the criminal complaint.

The teen was treated at Kosair Children's Hospital for his injuries. The incident was captured on school surveillance video.

Hardin is charged with official misconduct, felony and misdemeanor assault, wanton endangerment and false swearing. The police reports claim Hardin violated LMPD use of force procedures.

Officer Hardin has previously been named in a lawsuit filed against three LMPD officers that

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