ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – An employee at a St. George youth treatment center, Gino Sanchez, 38, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child abuse involving physical injury last week in 5th District Court, according to court documents.
Sanchez allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old student, pulling her by the hair and punching her in the face, after a riot broke out inside the Red Rock Canyon School in St. George April 28th.
The incident happened in front of several students and staff members, according to court documents.
Sanchez was interviewed by officers and told them the girl was punching and attacking other staff members and when he tried to verbally de-escalate the situation, she attacked him.
Sanchez said he pushed her back and away from him with an open hand and denied punching her in the face.
According to charging documents, at St. George detective reviewed video surveillance of the encounter.
“While the details are not clear, you can see Sanchez’s arm move towards ** and **’s head move back,” said the documents.
The brawl left at least 25 students and staff injured, according to St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin.
Police from multiple agencies along with a SWAT team responded to the fight, which sent five people to the hospital, according to Atkin.
St. George police said detectives have completed their investigation into the riot, which included looking into the actions of several Red Rock Canyon employees, and Sanchez is the only staff member being charged.
Sanchez is due back in court on July 30th, and the judge will decide whether or not a preliminary hearing will take place, according to Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap.