Former Farmington police officer who roughed up student with special needs sentenced to probation | KOB 4

Former Farmington police officer who roughed up student with special needs sentenced to probation

Nathan O’Neal
Updated: January 14, 2021 06:45 PM
Created: January 14, 2021 04:54 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The former Farmington police officer who roughed up an 11-year-old student with special needs in 2019 will not serve any time behind bars. 

In December, Zachary Christensen pleaded no contest to a child abuse charge for his actions caught on his own lapel camera. The video, which was first exposed by the KOB 4 Investigates team, shows then-officer Christensen roughing up an 11-year-old girl after she misbehaved at school. 

Christensen resigned from the force shortly after the incident. 

In a virtual hearing Thursday, prosecutors called for the maximum sentence of three years behind bars. 

“[Christensen] classified this as an underserved hardship… an underserved hardship brought upon him by the callous AG’s office. It is not at all undeserved. He chose… to commit this attack,” said Assistant Attorney General Zachary Jones. 

For the first time, Christensen publicly explained himself during the sentencing hearing. 

“Everybody makes mistakes and I’m willing to admit that I made mistakes,” said Christensen, adding later: “I’m not a social worker and the way I was trained was how I responded.” 

However, an internal investigation conducted by the Farmington Police Department found Christensen was in violation of the department’s policy that day – including “violating use of force policy” and “unsatisfactory performance.” 

“I lost my career. I lost the ability to ever get a law enforcement job again… we had to move because of death threats,” said Christensen. “This is a one-time incident that I’m not proud of but it’s never going to happen again.” 

While the state wanted Christensen locked up, Judge Curtis Gurley disagreed. 

“I don’t believe that to be appropriate under all the facts and circumstances,” said Gurley, instead placing Christensen on a three-year period of conditional discharge suspension “under which time he’ll be under the standard conditions of probation.” 

Christensen will also be screened for anger management as part of his sentence. 

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas –whose office prosecuted the case -- isn’t pleased with the sentence. 

"We were able to secure a conviction in this case, but this sentence is highly disappointing. By allowing a conditional discharge, this defendant will have admitted to abusing a young minority special needs child in a school and can effectively walk away like it never happened," said Balderas.  

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