Maryland police today defended the restraining and pepper-spraying of a 15-year-old girl they said was not cooperating after a traffic accident, saying that the actions of officers involved an appropriate amount of force.
The Hagerstown Police Department released bodycam videos that show officers attempting to restrain the girl and later, one officer pepper-spraying the teen as other officers attempt to close the door of the police car they have put her in.
On Sunday afternoon, police found the 15-year-old girl to be at fault for hitting a moving vehicle with her bicycle, according to the Hagerstown Police Department.
Police said that during the investigation, "the juvenile had to be detained" and that she began to be "assaultive" during the arrest, which is why she was pepper-sprayed.
The girl, whose identity was not released, was charged with disorderly conduct, two counts of second-degree assault, possession of marijuana and failure to obey a traffic device, police said. The matter was referred to the Department of Juvenile Services.
In the almost 15 minutes of videos released by police, firefighters and the girl are on the scene when the first officer arrives. The officer asks the firefighter to "grab" the girl's information while he grabs the driver's. As the teen sits on her bike, the firefighter tells the officer that she does not want to be treated because she says she's not injured.
The driver then tells the officer he was coming down the street while the light was green when the girl came around the corner, didn't stop and hit the side of his car. The officer then takes a picture of the damage to the driver's side of the black sedan and asks for his license and registration.
"She didn't want to stay," the driver then tells the officer. "We almost had to forcibly keep her here."
The video posted by ABC News begins at the point where the officer wearing the bodycam walking toward the girl, who is with another officer. The officer behind wearing the bodycam tells her to "come here." The girl responds, "Nah, don't touch me. Don't f---ing touch me," before she walks away and gets on her bike, saying she doesn't want her parents to be called.
"Yeah, we are calling your parents," an officer says.
As she bikes away, it appears that the officer wearing the bodycam stops her, grabbing her backpack and pulling her off the bike. She's told that she's being detained for not cooperating in an investigation.
"Get off of me," the girl tells the officers as she tries to break free.
As the girl continues to struggle with the officers, one of them tells her: "You're gonna get hurt. Stop."
"Get the f--- off of me," she tells them. "I'm not going nowhere."
One of the officers then instructs a bystander to "get back" multiple times as he tries to mediate the escalating situation.
"You let that badge go to your head, man," the bystander tells the officer.
The officer then tells the girl to get her hands behind her back and tries to handcuff her, reminding her that she's "being detained right now" when she asks why.
"Get that s--- off of me," she says as she wiggles away.
The officers grab her, telling her to "stop," and she begins to scream, saying to the officers that they were hurting her.
The girl then sits on the ground and doesn't respond as police ask for her name. The officer wearing the bodycam places his hand on her shoulder, saying that they're "trying to help" her.
"I'm not f---ing hurt," she screams.
The officer explains that they need her parents to come to the scene, but she responds that they can't come because they're watching a football game.
"Well, that's not an excuse for them not to come down here," he responds.
The teen then asks to "get off the ground," but the officer tells her she's "staying right there." She continues to say that she doesn't want to get in trouble.
"You need to calm down, OK?" the officer tells her. "Take a seat."
The officers then pick her up, and the frame goes black as she kicks the bodycam off the first officer. The video, as provided by police, picks back up using the footage from the bodycam of another officer arriving at the scene, beginning with an image of two officers carrying the girl horizontally to a squad car. The car involved in the initial accident is still on the scene, and onlookers have gathered on various street corners.
As the officers put the girl in the back of the car, they tell her to "get her feet in" and to "stop resisting." She continues to cry and struggle, and an officer asks her to calm down and inquires where her mom is.
"I just need to know where your mom's at. That's it," an officer tells her. "You help me, I help you."
The girl then says that she's going to "tell her dad" and tells the officer to "die."
"I'll spray her, if you just want to step back," one officer says.
"Put your feet in, or you're getting sprayed," the other officer says to her.
An officer then sprays the girl through the window, and following that, another officer closes the door. The teen begins to scream and cry, and can be heard saying: "I can't breathe."
The officer wearing the bodycam then radios in, "Female just got pepper sprayed," and walks over to the driver of the car that got hit to get his account of what happened.
"Officers throughout this country and our community are often placed in very difficult situations each and every day," said Hagerstown Police Chief Victor Brito in a press conference today. "It's their job to act in the interest in our community.
Brito said the officers "applied their training and responded within the guidelines of the Hagerstown Police Department."
"The officers used the appropriate amount of force to detain a juvenile who was not being cooperative," Brito said.
The police chief said the girl refused to give her identity, which is required in a traffic accident, "whether you're 15 or you're 50."
Brito said that officers used the "minimal amount of force necessary" because the outcome would have been worse if a more than 200-pound officer had used physical force to get her into the car. The officer who pepper-sprayed the girl used "one burst," Brito said.
The officers "recognized the fact that she was a juvenile" and tried to use their "best adult tone to calm the situation down," he said.
"Sometimes the actions that we take aren't pretty," Brito said. "Sometimes they can look a little ugly. But, they follow policy, pattern and procedure for the Hagerstown Police Department."
The teen's family plans on speaking in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Police reported a group of protesters causing increased traffic and congestion in Hagerstown Wednesday night.
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