NICEVILLE, Fla. (WKRG) — A 22-year-old school bus aide is facing child abuse charges for improper use of force on a 6-year-old boy with autism. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office arrested John-Paul Martinez on Jan. 24 following a two-month investigation.

Martinez worked as an aide to watch over students at Silver Sands School in Fort Walton Beach. Silver Sands is a specialty school for people with disabilities teaching students ranging from 3 to 22 years old.

An arrest report and press release sent by OCSO said the child’s grandmother first called to report the crime after the boy came home with bruises. OCSO said the use of force was caught on the bus surveillance camera on Nov. 1, 2022. The footage showed that the victim, restrained in a seating harness, was having behavioral problems before Martinez stepped in.

“The Defendant physically restrained the Victim by forcefully grabbing his limbs, thrusting the Victim’s hands/arms in the area of his own mouth while instructing him to bite himself, and pulling the Victim while he was still secured in his harness to the point of him being stretched across the seat. While being stretched across the seat, the Victim’s harness was visibly tight underneath his arms and the Victim could be seen pulling at the harness in various manners. All while, the Victim was screaming, crying, and pleading.”

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report

According to the report, Martinez had to carry the child off the bus stop since the boy agreed to calm down.

“Upon arrival at the Victim’s bus stop, the Victim was still crying out when the Defendant
exclaimed to the Victim’s mother, “Uh, he’s not doing good, I’m not sure what set him off.”

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report

The arrest report said Martinez confessed to the use of force in an interview with law enforcement on Nov. 4, 2022. Martinez told OCSO the actions were outside of his job description and that he was not trained to restrain or even touch the students unless it was an emergency. OCSO said Martinez also admitted that his actions were excessive and that other options could’ve been taken.

The child suffered bruising from Martinez that day, according to the responding deputy. Since the incident, the boy’s family told OCSO he is scared to ride the bus.

The Okaloosa County School District issued a statement following the OCSO release stating the district placed Martinez on administrative leave without pay immediately after the incident was reported.

“The behavior alleged in this incident is absolutely unacceptable and does not represent the high standards of conduct that our hard-working employees uphold each and every day,” stated Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “Student safety will always be my number one priority. In situations where we fail to meet the standards we’ve set, individuals will be held accountable. We greatly appreciate the Sheriff’s Office for their work in this situation and truly value the partnership we have with them.”

Martinez is in Okaloosa County Jail awaiting a bond hearing.