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Black Lives Matter demonstrators were surrounding a Rochester police station on Monday to protest officers who were captured on video handcuffing and pepper-spraying a distraught 9-year-old girl last week.
The protesters began to surround the police station and tear down a barricade following an announcement that the officers involved in the Friday-night incident had been suspended.
Rochester Police Capt. Mark Mura told Fox News the protesters dispersed after pushing down the barricade and there were no confrontations, arrests, and or injuries. He declined to comment on the ongoing situation with the officers.
The officers suspended were not named. Their suspensions are effective immediately and will continue pending an internal investigation.
Rochester Police released two body-camera videos Sunday of officers restraining and sprayed with what police called a chemical “irritant.” The footage showed officers scolding the girl, who was screaming for her father. At one point, an officer is heard telling her to “stop acting like a child,” to which she cried, “I am a child.”
A total of nine officers and supervisors responded to the report of “family trouble” on Friday. The girl can be heard in the body-camera videos from officers at the scene screaming frantically for her father as the officers try to restrain her.
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING
The police body camera video shows numerous police cars and officers on the snowy scene. After being restrained on the ground, the girl, wearing flowered leggings and a black sweatshirt, asks, “Can you please get the snow off of me? It’s cold.”
“You had your chance,” one officer tells her, while another shouts, “Get in the car now!”
The Democrat and Chronicle reported that prior to the release of the videos, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren expressed her concern for the “child that was harmed during this incident that happened on Friday.”
“I have a 10-year-old child, so she’s a child, she’s a baby. This video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see,” Warren went on to say.
Warren met with the interim police chief, Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, before announcing the disciplinary action.
“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged all of our community,” Warren said in a statement. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James said Monday her office was “looking into” what happened. She called the incident “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”
James last year empaneled a grand jury to investigate the actions of several Rochester police officers following the death of Daniel Prude. Prude died after officers responding to a call for help from his brother put a hood over the naked man’s head and pressed his face into the pavement.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed on the matter in later Tuesday calling the videos “disturbing and heartbreaking.”
“This alarming incident must be fully investigated,” Cuomo said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said Rochester police should no longer be involved in mental health crises.
“There is no conceivable justification for the Rochester police to subject a 9-year-old to pepper spray, period,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said Monday.
Also Monday, two Rochester state lawmakers, Sen. Samra Brouk and Assemblyman Demond Meeks, both Democrats, announced legislation to prohibit use of chemical agents against minors by police officers.
“To see such horrific footage of the mistreatment of a little girl, no less, was simply unreal. We have to remember who we’re talking about here,” Brouk said during a video news conference. “This is a child. She’s in elementary school.”
At a news conference Sunday, Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson described the girl as suicidal.
“She indicated she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom,” he said.
Officers tried to force the girl into a patrol car but she pulled away and kicked at them. In a statement Saturday, the police department said this action “required” an officer to take the girl down to the ground. Then, the department said, “for the minor’s safety and at the request of the custodial parent on scene,” the child was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
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Police said the girl disobeyed commands to put her feet in the car. An officer was then “required” to spray an “irritant” in the handcuffed girl’s face, the department said Saturday.
At Sunday’s news conference, Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan described the irritant as pepper spray. She declined to defend the officers’ actions.
“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not,” Herriott-Sullivan said. “I don’t see that as who we are as a department, and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”
Police said the girl was eventually taken to Rochester General Hospital, “where she received the services and care that she needed,” and was later released to her family.
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The Rochester Police Department has faced scrutiny since the death of Daniel Prude last year after officers from the department put a hood over his head and pressed his face into the pavement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.