‘It’s burning my eyes’: Black girl, 9, begged police for help after being pepper sprayed

A nine-year-old black girl pepper sprayed by police begged “please don’t do this to me” and “it’s burning my eyes” as she waited handcuffed in the back seat of a police car for 16 minutes, according to new police bodycam footage.

Officials in Rochester, New York, suspended the officers involved following the 29 January incident – and have now released almost 90 minutes of additional video to be transparent, said the city’s mayor, Lovely Warren.

It comes amid growing anger following the release of footage at the time showing officers – responding to a report of “family trouble” – restraining the girl, who was distraught and screaming for her father.

In this this Jan. 29. 2021 still frame from a Rochester Police Department body-camera video, a nine-year-old girl is handcuffed in police custody in a police cruiser after police used pepper spray on her as she screamed for her father. Rochester, New York police released two body-camera videos of officers restraining the girl. According a local news outlet, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren expressed her concern for the child. (Rochester Police Department via AP)
Image:New footage shows the nine-year-old pepper sprayed as she waited handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. Pic: Rochester Police Department

At one point, an officer is heard telling her to “stop acting like a child”, to which she cried: “I am a child.”

The new footage released on Thursday showed the wait until an ambulance arrived for the girl.

It shows officers growing increasingly impatient with the child as they tried to get her into the police car.

“I want a girl officer,” pleads the child, as one officer comes forward and urges the girl to lift her legs into the car and “sit back”.

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“I want to see my dad,” the girl cries.

“I am going to go and get your dad,” replies the officer. “I will call him. Come on, sit back.”

“They are losing their patience,” she says, apparently referring to the other male officers at the scene.

“I can’t find your dad until you sit back and I close the door… I will find your dad, so sit back, I promise… just sit, hun.

“I am going to pepper spray you and I don’t want to, so sit back,” the officer continues.

“Sit back, come on. This is your last chance otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs. Come on. Let’s go.”

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‘Please wipe my eyes’

The child, wearing flowered leggings and a black sweatshirt, refuses and is sprayed with a chemical irritant and begs the officer to “stop” and screams: “My eyes! Wipe my eyes, please!”

“Officer, please don’t do this to me.”

“You did it to yourself, hun,” replies the policewoman.

“It’s burning my eyes,” says the girl.

“That’s the point of a pepper spray, The ambulance is on it’s way and they will clear your eyes out,” the officer responds.

“The pepper spray is burning my eyes… It’s going into my mouth,” cries the child.

At one point, a male officer can be heard saying “it’s supposed to burn”.

The girl also complains “the handcuffs are too tight” several times.

“Get it out my eyes, it hurts,” she cries, referring again to the chemical, and asks several times when the ambulance will arrive to clean her eyes.

The child is eventually driven away from the scene by paramedics, and is accompanied by the policewoman who reassures her that she is with an all-female ambulance crew, suggesting the girl’s eyes are shut tight because of the pepper spray.

The girl’s mother said she called police during an argument with her husband, but asked officers to call mental health services when it became clear her daughter was very upset.

The police body camera video shows numerous police cars and officers at the scene.

Police said the girl disobeyed commands to put her feet in the car and that an officer was then “required” to spray an “irritant” in the handcuffed girl’s face.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the new footage was “even more shocking and disturbing” than the first video.

“New Yorkers in every corner of the state are sickened by these actions and as a father of three daughters, I’m furious,” he said in a statement.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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