She pleads with a female officer in the front seat. “Officer, please,” she says, “don’t do this to me.”
“You did it to yourself, hon,” the officer replies.
The moment was part of nearly 90 minutes of new body-camera footage Rochester police released Thursday showing the aftermath of the Jan. 29 incident, in which officers could be seen restraining the child as she cried for help.
The new police footage, which goes beyond previously released clips totaling 16 minutes, contains camera angles and shows comments from the officers after they pepper spray the girl, who has not been identified.
It also brought fresh scrutiny to the Rochester Police Department, which has faced mounting calls for reform over its treatment of racial justice protesters and the death last year of a Black man who suffocated after police put a hood over his head.
A Rochester police spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
The incident unfolded when officers went to the girl’s mother’s house after receiving a “family trouble” call on the afternoon of Jan. 29.
The girl’s mother, Elba Pope, told The Washington Post this week that she had called police so she could file a report about her car possibly being stolen. When officers arrived, she said, the girl ran from the house screaming that she wanted her dad and was about “to kill me and my unborn baby and herself.”
As officers tried to restrain the girl, Pope said she repeatedly told an officer that her daughter was having a mental health breakdown and implored them to call a specialist instead of trying to detain her. They didn’t, she said.
The new footage shows a gaggle of officers trying to force the girl into the rear of a white police cruiser.
“You’re going to get sprayed if you don’t get in,” a male officer warns.
Sobbing, with her hands cuffed behind her back, the girl asks a female officer to tell the others to let her go. She cries out for her father and says one of the officers is pulling too hard on her arm.
“Get in the car, I’m done telling you,” another male officer says.
The female officer then says, “This is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs.”
Moments later, an officer sprays the 9-year-old. As the officers shut the cruiser’s rear doors, the girl can be heard screaming, “My eye is bleeding.”
When the female officer gets back into the car, the girl asks when the pepper spray will wear off. “It’s burning my eyes,” she says.
“That’s the point of pepper spray,” the officer responds.
About 10 minutes later, paramedics arrive and take the girl away. One of the paramedics asks why they sprayed her. “She just would not get in the car,” the female officer says. “Kicking, screaming and yelling.”
None of the officers involved have been identified. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced this week she was suspending three officers who responded.
Warren said the release of the extended video was important for ensuring transparency, adding that she had asked the police chief to expedite an investigation of the incident.
“I continue to share our community’s outrage for the treatment of this child and have ensured that she and her family have been connected to the support they need through our Person in Crisis team,” the mayor said in a statement, referring to the city’s new mental health crisis response team.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) called the new footage “even more shocking and disturbing than the last” and said it was part of a systemic problem with law enforcement.
Diallo Payne, a Rochester attorney who has helped organize protests against the officers’ actions, said that after reviewing the new footage he was appalled by how quickly the officers seemed to lose patience with the girl.
“Police should be acting not like slave catchers or slave patrolmen but rather like human beings that have a sense of humanity,” he said in an interview. “Approach this as a father, or the way a caring citizen would. Approach this 9-year-old in a way that shows you know she’s in distress.”