By DAVID DISHNEAU, HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) 09/18 — Police in Maryland released body-camera video late Wednesday that shows an officer pepper-spraying a 15-year-old girl inside a police cruiser until she complies with orders to move her feet so that they can close the door.
Hagerstown Police Capt. Paul Kifer said the officer had to subdue her so that they could drive her to the police station after she tried to leave the scene where her bicycle collided with a car on Sunday.
The video shows the white officers repeatedly trying to question the mixed-race girl and get contact information for her parents, in part to authorize her refusal to receive medical treatment from the paramedics who responded to the accident. She repeatedly refuses, swears and struggles to get free.
“All we want to do is make sure she’s OK,” one officer tells a concerned bystander.
The family’s attorney, Robin Ficker, said the girl was briefly knocked unconscious by the collision, but had recovered by the time officers arrived, about five minutes later. The girl shows no visible injuries in the videos and tells the officers she wasn’t hurt.
Ficker said the police videos clearly show the officers overreacted.
“This is a grab from the get-go. It’s aggression from the get-go,” the lawyer said.
“If someone has been knocked out and then wants to go home, instead of going with strangers, and then is grabbed physically by some huge guy and her hands shoved up behind her back so it’s painful — this is not a gentle, ‘Here, sit here, we want to talk to you about this, call your parents,'” he observed.
Ficker said the girl has a white mother and black father. Kifer declined to identify them or their daughter, citing privacy concerns.
On the nearly 15 minutes of police body camera recordings, the girl can be seen and heard becoming hysterical as she’s being detained. Finally, two officers cuff the girl’s hands behind her back and hold her down by her shoulders as they tell her to stop resisting.
“Get off of me, stop touching me!” she screams, and an officer responds, “I’m not going to stop touching you, because you wanted to leave.”
“We’re trying to help you,” one officer says, explaining that they need to contact her parents, since she’s a minor. She refuses to give them more information, saying she will get in trouble.
Finally, two officers pick her up by the shoulders and legs. She kicks one of their body cameras, stopping the recording, the department explained. A second officer’s recording then shows her continuing to resist as they put her in the cruiser.
“Put your feet in, you’re going to get sprayed,” an officer says. Another tells other officers, “I’ll just spray her if you want to step back.” He then sprays for several seconds through the partially open window as another officer shuts the door.
The girl then coughs and screams, “I can’t breathe.”
Kifer said investigators determined the girl was to blame for the collision. In the video, the car’s driver tells an officer that she rode through a red light and points out several scratches on his car door.
She was charged as a juvenile with assault and disorderly conduct, as well as failure to obey a traffic device and marijuana possession.
Ficker, retained by the mother, posted a bystander’s cell phone video of the arrest on social media Tuesday before the police video was released.
“This little girl, 5 ft. 105 lbs, was brutalized by Hagerstown police after, she, on her bike, was hit by a car, but refused medical treatment. They slammed her against a wall, arrested her for refusing treatment, maced her 4 times in the police car while handcuffed, and took her to the police station instead of the hospital!” Ficker posted on Facebook.
Kifer denied that the girl was slammed against a wall; it’s not clear from the police video.
Ficker told The Associated Press that her father did take her to a hospital after picking her up at the station. Ficker said she was treated and released with sprained muscles and soreness everywhere, including her wrists from being handcuffed.
“I think the soreness is not caused by the car so much as it was caused by the police,” he said.