Video footage has surfaced of a woman being tackled and pepper-strayed by police officers in Rochester, New York, all while holding her three-year-old child. NBC News reports that the incident took place on Feb. 22.
This incident is the latest involving Rochester police and excessive force. As reported by The Appeal, within the past year, officers there had handcuffed a 10-year-old boy during a traffic stop, pepper-sprayed a nine-year-old girl during a domestic call and fatally wounded a man named Daniel Prude who stopped breathing after his head was pushed into the pavement during a confrontation.
According to bodycam footage of the February episode, a Black woman, whose name has not been disclosed, was approached by a white Rochester police officer after being accused of shoplifting by a store clerk. The footage shows that the officer vacated his vehicle to question the woman as she stood on the sidewalk while holding her child.
“Did you steal from that store,” the officer asked. “Oh come on they said you stole. What’d you take? Tell me the truth!”
She responded, “So I walked in the store, right? And [the store employee] saw I picked up something.”
She then placed the child down to stand on the sidewalk next to her as she revealed to the officer that her purse had no stolen objects from the store.
“He said that I stole something from that store, and I promise, on God, I ain’t stole nothing,” the woman said as she took her belongings out of her bag, showing keys, a hat and a disposable mask in her hand. She told the officer that there was nothing else in her bag except diapers and wipes, opening it for him to look inside.
After the officer looked inside the bag, he asked what did the clerk say that she stole. The woman said she didn’t know, but all she knew was that the clerk said he was going to call the police.
“Well we’ve got to talk with them and see, so I need you to hop in the back of my car with your kid really quick and we’re going to go check,” the officer said.
She declined. When the officer instructed her to stay with him as a fellow officer conferred with the store clerk, the woman began to run back to the store.
The officer then attempted to arrest the woman, telling her to put the child down. The child begins to cry as she is separated from the mother. The officer is then seen attempting to handcuff the woman and proceeding to tackle her to the ground.
The incident was reviewed by a police accountability board in a virtual press conference on Friday. According to Board Member Conor Reynolds, the woman was pepper-sprayed as she was holding the child, per footage from the store’s parking lot security camera.
As reported by The Guardian, a Rochester Police Department report confirmed the woman was pepper sprayed, but the child was not hit with the element.
The woman was arrested for trespassing.
The officer who used the pepper spray has been placed on administrative duty.
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