The family of a 9-year-old Black girl in Rochester, N.Y., who was pepper sprayed by police last Friday (Jan. 29) as they attempted to apprehend her, has filed suit against the city and the police department.
According to the notice of claim filed Feb. 1, the girl’s mother, Elba Pope, cited “infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false arrest and unlawful imprisonment.” in the arrest attempt.
Police officers were called to a home responding to “family trouble.” The woman who reportedly called them told police that she feared her child would harm herself or others. The unidentified girl ran away from home, but police say when they tried to take her into custody, she pulled away and kicked at officers.
Officials say that at the request of the custodial parent at the scene, the officers then handcuffed the child and put her in a squad car while awaiting an ambulance to come. As she resisted, an officer used “an irritant on the minor,” police said, which was later identified as pepper spray.
On Monday, body camera footage shows the officers struggling to subdue her as she argued with her mother and screamed for her father.
The incident caused massive community outrage and demands that the officers responsible lose their jobs. One Rochester officer was suspended while two others have been placed on administrative leave.
The police department is conducting an internal investigation as well as Rochester’s Police Accountability Board, according to local station WROC.
The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount in punitive damages, and alleges officers never told Pope that they would be pepper spraying her daughter or that a struggle with the girl ensued as they tried to apprehend her.
“The conduct of the City of Rochester, Rochester Police Officers, employees and agents was wanton, reckless and malicious,” the lawsuit says. “To protect society against similar acts, the defendants in this action should be punished with punitive damages awarded to Claimants.”