- Associated Press - Friday, January 8, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha Police Department has determined that an officer’s use of force was justified as he tried to break up a fight at Millard South High school last month.

School resource officer Nick Caniglia punched a student several times Dec. 17 in a school hallway while trying to pull the students apart.

Caniglia “is exonerated in this matter,” Chief Todd Schmaderer said in a news release issued Thursday night. “The use of force was within OPD policy and is deemed justified.”

Caniglia returned to his duties at the school Friday.

Video examined during the department’s Internal Affairs Unit investigation shows a school security officer being punched as he tried to break up the fight. He was joined 45 seconds later by Caniglia, who was punched in the side of his head by a 17-year-old student, police said.

Caniglia punched the boy at least four times, ordered him to the ground and handcuffed him, police said.

The student who punched Caniglia wasn’t charged with assaulting an officer because the student said he didn’t know he was hitting an officer, the news release said. It also said the boy apologized to Caniglia.

One of the videos shows a verbal altercation between the boy, who is white, as he walked with two black male students. Police said the dialogue has racial overtones. Three other videos show one of the black students charging the white student, leading to the fight.

Police did not release the boys’ names.

School district spokeswoman Rebecca Kleeman would not say whether the students involved still attend the school or what discipline they might be facing.

“We are glad the matter is at a rest and Officer Caniglia can once again resume his duties of assisting students and staff at Millard South,” Kleeman told the Omaha World-Herald.

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