Rochester Releases Video Of Police Pepper-Spraying 9-Year-Old Girl
Updated at 4:14 p.m. ET
City officials in Rochester, N.Y., released police body camera footage showing an encounter between officers and a 9-year-old girl who they handcuffed and later pepper-sprayed when she did not move fully inside a police vehicle.
Officials said that police were responding to a family disturbance on Friday and that the girl was suicidal and upset. They said officers detained the minor in order to get her assistance.
The video, released Sunday, shows the girl crying and begging for her father. Officials have not identified the girl.
The incident renews scrutiny on the city of Rochester and its Police Department following the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man with a history of mental illness who died of asphyxiation after an encounter with police in March.
Details of Prude's death were not made public until months later, leading to protests in the city. Several members of the Rochester Police Department command staff were terminated or left the department.
"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It's not," interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said at a Sunday afternoon press conference.
She vowed to continue to do the work to implement reform within the police department to ensure incidents like this do not happen in the future.
Police said girl was suicidal
"I'm not making any excuses for what transpired," Rochester Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson said Sunday as he described the incident.
He said police responded to a call Friday about "family trouble" at residence in northern Rochester just before 3:30 p.m. The girl said she wanted to kill herself and her mother, Anderson said, and officers at the scene "made an effort to try to secure her." He said her mother also was involved.
An officer decided to try to move the child to the police vehicle, so that she could be transferred to a hospital, Anderson said, but the child "thrashed around."
"From what was observed, it didn't appear as if she was resisting the officer," Anderson said. "She was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital."
The officer-worn camera footage, which contains graphic language and disturbing images, shows officers trying to restrain the girl as she falls in the snow. The officers put handcuffs on her as she screams out repeatedly: "I want my dad!"
In a separate video released by police, it appears at least six police vehicles arrive at the scene.
As law enforcement officers try to get the girl in the patrol car, she pleads with officers to get the snow off of her. She screams again and again for her father and says her arm is hurting.
"You're acting like a child," one officer yells at the child.
"I am a child!" the girl screams back.
The girl, who is sitting in the back of the patrol car with her legs outside on the ground, refuses officer's commands to sit back and move get inside the vehicle.
A female officer arrives and implores the girl to comply.
"This is your last chance or pepper spray is going in your eyeballs, come on," the female officer says.
A few seconds later, the girl screams as she is hit with pepper spray and then begs officers to wipe her eyes. It isn't clear which officer sprayed the eye irritant.
The police video ends with one officer exclaiming, "Unbelievable."
Mayor calls for an investigation
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said Sunday that she's asked for the police department to investigate the incident. She said she also welcomes a review of the incident by the city's Police Accountability Board.
"I have a 10-year-old daughter... she's a child. She's a baby," Warren said. "And I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see. It's not."
"This is not something that any of us should want to justify, can justify and is something we have to change. It is not an option," Warren said. She added that officers must have compassion and empathy when dealing with "a child who is suffering in this way."
Warren also said she has been in communication with the girl's mother and offered other support and resources from the city, NPR member station WXXI in Rochester reported.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James called the treatment of the girl "deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable. Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period. My office is looking into what transpired and how a child was ever subjected to such danger."