FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A man who rode a school bus and was hired as a paraprofessional to assist students with disabilities is now accused of hitting several students on multiple occasions, according to an arrest affidavit from Fort Collins Police Services.
The Poudre School District notified FCPS on Tuesday of a possible assault by Tyler Zanella, 36.
The department's school resource officers immediately began an investigation in conjunction with the school district. According to the affidavit, surveillance video from the bus shows Zanella hitting the student, a kindergartner with disabilities, on April 25, May 19 and May 22. He was put on leave on May 23 and terminated the next day, according to the school district.
On Wednesday, officers arrested Zanella on the following charges:
- 3 counts of crimes against at-risk juvenile -- 3rd-degree assault, a felony
- 3 counts of 3rd-degree assault, a misdemeanor
- 3 counts of child abuse -- knowingly or recklessly -- a misdemeanor
He's next due in court on June 6.
An officer who reviewed the bus video described what he saw in the affidavit. He wrote that on May 19 Zanella is seen in the video looking toward the bus driver and then hitting the boy, who has Autism, in the back of the head.
On May 22, at 8:42 a.m. the officer wrote that Zanella is seen hitting a student with his fist and hit the child a total of five times in the temple and forehead area. About a minute later, the officer said Zanella is seen hitting a different student in the head with his fist.
That afternoon around 3:35 p.m., Zanella is seen in the video hitting a student in the head four times. Around that same time, the affidavit says Zanella is seen attempting to hit the student again but stops because he sees an adult approaching the bus.
The video also shows the child covering his ears and head as if trying to protect himself, according to the officer.
On May 24, the officer received a photo that was taken on April 25 by a counselor at Shepardson Elementary. It showed a child with two marks on his face, one on the left side of his temple and one on his forehead, the affidavit says.
The officer asked for any video of bus rides that involved Zanella and specifically request video from April 25. When he watched video from that day, he saw Zanella putting a backpack in a child's lap. As Zanella did that, the affidavit says, he hit the child in the face with it.
Later when the child was exiting the bus, Zanella is seen taking the backpack and hitting the child two more times in the face before helping him put on the backpack, according to the document
When Zanella was contacted at his home, he said his relationship with the student was "good" and that they tease each other by "slapping each other," the affidavit says.
He said he sometimes "flicks" the boy in the head, but said he "gets it back too," the affidavit says. He went on to say, according to the affidavit, that he thinks "it may go too far, but it is not with intent to harm anyone."
When police contacted the child's family they said they noticed a change in behavior, the affidavit says. They said he used to like getting on the bus, but doesn't anymore and had recently tried to run to avoid getting on the bus.
They also reported that he doesn't like anyone to touch his head now.
A Poudre School District spokesperson said Zanella, who was hired in August 2022, has been fired and is not eligible for future employment with the school district.
A spokesperson also said that in addition to the route serving Shepardson, Zanella was on eight other routes since his hire date last August. They were working to notify families or staff at other schools with routes Zanella had served on.
Officers have reason to believe there may be additional victims. Anyone with information regarding the case or any other cases involving Zanella is asked to call Officer Dexter Rowe at 970-472-3705.
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