El Mirage police defend officers involved in melee during elementary school lockdown

A woman says she didn’t push past officers or use violence of any kind. However, El Mirage police said the body camera video will show otherwise.
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 7:57 PM MST
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EL MIRAGE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- El Mirage police are defending their officers’ actions following a lockdown and melee in front of Thompson Ranch Elementary School last Friday morning. Arizona’s Family spoke with one of the family members who police say will be charged in connection with the incident. Darlene Gonzales said she didn’t push past officers or use violence of any kind. However, El Mirage police said the body camera video will show otherwise.

“We have a job to do,” Lt. Jimmy Chavez with El Mirage police said. Their job Friday was one of the hardest, responding to reports of an armed man trying to get into a West Valley elementary school. The school was placed on lockdown. “I fully understand the concern the parents would have in this particular type of situation,” he said.

Some students called and texted their parents and other family members. They began arriving at the school. Cell phone video shows a portion of what followed.

El Mirage police said it happened as officers were trying to clear the building and authorities said a suspicious package was found. “We had to divert our resources and our focus on individuals who were not complying with our instructions, not doing what they were told to do, and as a result the conflict escalated,” Lt. Chavez said.

Officers said that the video was taken at the end of the confrontation when officers were trying to take 22-year-old Vincent Castaneda into custody. In the melee, you see a gun fall from his waistband. Authorities confirm he was tased, as was another man, Jonathan Davis.

Police said Davis and Castaneda’s mother, Darlene Gonzales, both got involved in that confrontation, which is why they’ll face charges. “The use of force was appropriate based on some of the reviews that we’ve already seen in our own body camera footage. The body cameras from all of the officers involved,” he said.

Tensions heightened, it comes in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas back in May. Police there are accused of not responding quickly enough.

Arizona’s Family asked Lt. Chavez about that. “The response is that this is El Mirage, Arizona, this is Arizona, we train to respond accordingly and we will continue to do that,” he said.

As for the suspect who started the lockdown, he was taken into custody Friday. Police have not yet charged him, and they said that’s because it’s unclear if he was actually armed. That’s part of their ongoing investigation.

El Mirage police said the body camera video and 911 call would be released Wednesday or Thursday.