Police Chief Defends Pepper Spraying Handcuffed 15-Year-Old Girl, Releases Body-Cam Footage
Police in Maryland released body-camera footage of an officer pepper-spraying a handcuffed 15-year-old girl who they say refused to cooperate after her bike collided with a car, saying it was a last resort action to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation.
Officers with the Hagerstown Police Department responded to a reported collision involving a car and a bicycle at Randolph and N. Locust Streets at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, where the driver of the car told police that a teenage girl hit his car and attempted to leave, refusing medical attention at the scene.
He told police that she rode through a red light and shows cops the damage on his car.
The 15-year-old bicyclist allegedly refuses to answer any of the officers' questions, repeatedly saying, “Don’t f****** touch me,” police body-cam video released Wednesday shows.
The girl tries to ride away on her bike but is stopped by police, who struggle to handcuff her as she screams for them to "get the f*** off of me."
Cops eventually handcuff the girl and carry her to a nearby police cruiser, where they said she refused to put her feet into the car.
After one officer appears to be unsuccessful in persuading her to do as they say, another officer tells her that she is going to get pepper sprayed if she doesn’t put her feet into the squad car.
Apparently handcuffed at the time, the girl screams and a coughs after an officer sprays the chemical at her through the car’s open window, yelling “I can’t breathe” before she was driven to the police station.
Hagerstown Police Chief Victor Brito defended his officers and their actions, telling reporters that using pepper spray on the girl was a last resort in bringing what could have become a dangerous situation to an end.
The girl was charged as a juvenile with assault, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a traffic device and marijuana possession, police said.
Police released the body-cam footage after Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl’s family, posted a bystander’s video of the incident on Facebook.
“Our officers act and react in the interest of public safety in the midst of many difficult situations on a regular basis. We wanted to share this perspective with you to provide a better understanding of the full incident,” police said when they released the footage.
But Flicker said the officers displayed “aggression from the get-go.”
“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 wrote.
Police said it was the girl who had hit the car, and contend they never slammed the girl against a wall.
A bystander’s cell phone video appears to show an officer swinging the girl by her handcuffed arm toward a building and then later shows the girl pressed face-first against a wall.
Flicker said the girl was briefly knocked unconscious in the collision with the car and that she was later taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a possible concussion.
“I was confused what was going on,” the girl said to reporters outside Hagerstown police headquarters on Thursday, as about 100 people protested nearby about the incident.
Viewers of the videos were left divided about what happened and who should be held accountable.
“I can’t believe this happened in my town. Disgusting,” one person commented on Facebook.
“She showed disrespect from the beginning ... police officers were just doing their job … she refused to follow their orders … had she done so all of it could have been avoided,” another person argued.