Hagerstown Chief Defends Officers’ Action In Pepper-Spraying A Youth

He says they used minimum force to control an uncooperative teenager.

Hagerstown, Md (KM) Hagerstown Police Chief Victor Brito is defending the actions of his police officers who had to pepper-spray a 15-year-old girl on Sunday. “The officers applied their training, and responded within the guidelines of the Hagerstown Police Department and policy. And used the appropriate level of force under the circumstances to gain control of a juvenile who was not being cooperative with us,” he told reporters during a news conference on Thursday.

The youth was riding her bicycle near the intersection of North Locust Street and Randolph Avenue on Sunday, Sept 18th. Police say her bike struck a car on the driver’s side. The vehicle had the green light at that intersection, authorities say.

Chief Brito said officers were dispatched to the scene to investigate as they are required to do by law. He said the teenager tried to get away, and was told  she could not leave. The girl began kicking and cursing at the officers, who kept their cool, Brito says. “We did not at all use an excessive about of force to bring her under control. We tried to handcuff her. We went toward the curb and then ultimately to the wall.  As reported in some social media outlets that she was slammed against the wall. Never happened. She was placed against the wall. She went towards  the wall,” he says.

In addition, the Chief says the teenager was only sprayed once with pepper spray. “At that point in time, the officer told the Sergeant ‘Sergeant, I will spray.’ He warned her multiple times and then he released one burst of OC spray. Not multiple bursts, as reported, one burst according to our policy and procedure,” Brito said.

Even though he stands by his officers’ actions, Chief Brito said this incident could be a teaching moment. “This is a development opportunity for us. There may have been some things that we could learn from, that we could grow from. But the actions regarding policy and procedure were correct and within our guidelines,” he said.

The two officers remain on active duty, according to the Chief.

The girl has been charged as a juvenile with disorderly conduct, two counts of 2nd-degree assault, failing to stop at a traffic control device and possession of marijuana.

She spoke to reporters outside of police headquarters later that day. The teenager said she resisted arrest because she was dizzy,confused and scared after her bicycle hit a moving vehicle. The youth said she cursed and kicked at officers because she wanted to go home. |

The teenager spoke while a demonstration was taking place nearby.

The news conference also turned into a shouting match between the girl’s lawyer, Robin Ficker, and Mayor David Gysberts of Hagerstown. The Mayor called Ficker a “showboating, sideshow attorney” who was trying to divide the community. Ficker accused Gysberts of politicking and hollered, “Tell the truth, Mr. Mayor, tell the truth.”

By Kevin McManus