Police in Maryland released body-camera video late Wednesday that shows an officer pepper-spraying a 15-year-old girl inside a police cruiser because they say she refused to put her feet inside the car.
The video shows two Hagerstown Police Department officers struggle with a teen who screams as they repeatedly try to detain her and get her to comply.
The body-camera video was released after an attorney for the girl's family posted a bystander's video on Facebook, expressing outrage and accusing the officers of ``aggression from the get-go.''
But as the Hagerstown police chief took question after question at a news conference on Thursday, he insisted that his officers initially tried to de-escalate the situation, and only used pepper spray as a last resort to get the girl inside a cruiser and off to the station as a potentially dangerous crowd began to gather.
Chief Victor Brito said the girl calmed down at the police station, where she was charged as a juvenile with assault, disorderly conduct and a traffic violation.
Police Capt. Paul Kifer has said the white officer who arrested the girl on Sunday had to subdue her with the chemical spray so that they could take her to the police station after she tried to leave the scene of a crash between her bicycle and a car.
The video shows that officers repeatedly tried to question her and get contact information for her parents, in part to authorize her refusal to receive medical treatment from paramedics who responded to the crash.
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While the girl shows no visible injuries in the videos and tells the officers she was not hurt, Kifer said police wanted to make sure of that.
"All we want to do is make sure she's OK," an officer can be heard telling a concerned bystander,
The family's attorney, Robin 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 wearing a pink and purple shirt and ripped jeans can be seen and heard screaming as she is 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.
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 the body camera of one of the officers, stopping the recording, the department said. 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 reaches over the open door and uses his pepper spray through a crack in the car window.
The car door then closes as the girl screams. She can be heard saying "I can't breathe."
The officer reports to a dispatcher that a "female got pepper sprayed" and the cruiser drives off to the station in Hagerstown, a city of 40,000 about 70 miles west of Baltimore.
Kifer said investigators determined the girl was to blame for the collision. In the video, the car's driver, an older man, tells an officer that the teen rode through a red light. He points out several scratches on his car door.
Ficker, retained by the teen's mother, posted a bystander's cellphone video of the arrest on social media on 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.
Police posted the video to Facebook with this statement: "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."
Ficker told The Associated Press that the teen's father did take her to a hospital after picking her up at the station. Ficker said the girl was treated and released with sprained muscles and soreness everywhere, including her wrists, from being handcuffed.
He said she's been unable to participate in high school soccer and wrestling practice.
"I think the soreness is not caused by the car so much as it was caused by the police,'' he said.
Supporters of the teen protested peacefully Wednesday night outside police headquarters.