- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A male student involved in a school fight that led to the death of a 17-year-old student will not be charged because he used legally justifiable force in responding to the fight, authorities said Wednesday.

The 16-year-old student was justified in his use of force to defend himself after Dakota Escritt initiated a fight between them on Sept. 25 at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, according to Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber.

Dakota was hospitalized after the other student punched him and he hit his head on the floor. He died days later. An autopsy shows he had bleeding in the brain caused by a fractured skull.

“I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that Dakota deserved what he got,” Wilber said. “This was a horrible tragedy. Nobody intended for the ultimate result that happened here.”

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes. An initial assault charge in juvenile court against the student will be dropped, Wilber said.

School surveillance camera video shows both teens pushed and swung at each other after Dakota initiated the fight in a commons area. Video indicates a verbal confrontation began in the school cafeteria between the teens’ friends.

An investigation also indicates the teens’ friends had problems with each other but nothing that indicated bullying, Wilber said. He added that the teens had communicated on Facebook over an earlier confrontation between a friend of Dakota’s and the student who eventually punched Dakota.

“I know that part of the narrative of this case has been that Dakota was stepping in on what had turned into a repetitive bullying situation. We tried our best to run those rumors to ground and just could not substantiate any evidence of that,” he said.

Many student witnesses had contradictory information about the fight, Wilber said. The video helped clarify things, he said.

“In the end what we’re left with is the confrontation that starts in the cafeteria, moves into the commons, and then that’s the landscape for which I have to make my decision,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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