An off-duty uniformed officer working security at a Kroger store in Cincinnati, Ohio, used his Taser on an unarmed 11-year-old-girl suspected of stealing food from the store.
It remains unclear what threat the 4-foot-11, 90-pound girl could have posed to officer Kevin Brown that would have justified deploying his Taser on the girl’s back Monday night.
“There needs to be a complete investigation,” said Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who is chairman of the city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee. “It’s hard to understand why an 11-year-old would be tased. I expect answers in 24 hours.”
The girl allegedly ignored the officer’s commands and walked away from him when he tried to stop her after she left the store. She did not use force against the officer, according to the arrest report. TheBlaze is not identifying the girl whose name was not redacted in the arrest report.
CPD spokesman Lt. Stephen Saunders told TheBlaze that the department is still conducting the investigation, but that he’s not sure that 24 hours is a “realistic goal.”
Police Chief Eliot Isaac said he was “extremely concerned” about the force used by the officer on the child and launched an investigation Tuesday.
Brown, 55, remains on restricted duty, according to Saunders.
What do the department’s policies and procedures say?
Departmental policies allow officers to use a taser on anyone 7 to 70 years old, but Smitherman told WCPO-TV that he plans on proposing a change that would make the lower age limit 12, rather than 7.
“We then have a policy that says if you’re 7, I can Tase you with 50,000 volts that, to me, doesn’t match our brand,” Smitherman said.
Also, the procedure manual states that the Taser is to be used “for self-defense” or to control subjects who “are actively resisting arrest.”
“An individual simply fleeing from an officer, absent additional justification, does not warrant the use of the TASER,” according to the department’s procedure manual. “The TASER may be deployed on a suspect actively resisting arrest when there is probable cause to arrest the suspect.”
Saunders said the department is reviewing the “propriety of his actions” and would be transparent in its findings.
Is there body camera video?
The officer allegedly tried to activate his body camera at the beginning of the incident, but it did not turn on.
Tasers often feature a camera that activates when it is deployed, but according to Saunders, Brown’s Taser was not equipped with a camera. Investigators are checking nearby cameras for possible footage.
After he deployed his Taser on the girl, he activated his body camera.
What did the girl’s mother say?
Donna Gowdy, the girl’s mother, told The Enquirer that her daughter hit the ground face-first when the officer deployed his Taser on her back.
“I feel disappointed in the system,” Gowdy told The Enquirer. “I feel hurt.”
She said her daughter admitted to taking the snacks, but that police should have handled the situation differently.
“If you can’t run, then you need to get off the police force. If you can’t handle an 11-year-old child, then you really need to get off the police force. You here to protect these kids,” Gowdy told WCPO.
The girl’s mother said she wants the policy to be changed.
“I don’t want it to happen to nobody else’s kids, because it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been a gun,” she said.
The fifth-grader, who was with her younger sister and a friend that night, admitted that she took snacks from the store.
Was the girl injured?
The girl was taken to a local hospital after the incident and later released to a parent.
Her mother told The Enquirer that the girl still suffering from back pain and has trouble sleeping since the incident, according to WCPO.
“She should have never got tased,” Gowdy told the news outlet Wednesday. “I don’t understand why he did that.”
Gowdy showed where her daughter’s back was shocked by the Taser.
“It was sad,” the girl told WCPO.
What about the criminal charges against the girl?
On Wednesday, Mayor John Cranley asked Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters to drop the criminal charges.
“Tasing an 11-year old who posed no danger to the police is wrong,” Cranley said in an emailed statement to The Enquirer. “I’m sorry for the harm to her and her family. This evening I called and asked Prosecutor Deters to drop charges against the girl. I’m happy to report that he did and I thank for him doing so.”
Police initially filed charges against the girl for theft and obstructing official business.
“Generally with anyone under the age of 12, we want law enforcement to discuss charges with us,” Deters said. “That was not done in this case.”
What did Kroger say?
Kroger issued a written statement Wednesday.
“We are saddened by this situation. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and associates. Our thoughts are with the family and child. While this was an isolated situation, we share Police Chief Isaac’s extreme concern and appreciate the Cincinnati Police Department’s response. We want to understand what happened, why it happened, and we are assisting local law enforcement with their investigation,” the statement said.
Race does not appear to be a factor in this incident. The girl and the officer are both black.