Police officers in Rochester, New York handcuffed a 9-year-old girl last week, dousing her with pepper-spray as she begged for her father, according to graphic body camera footage released by the city on Sunday.
"This is your last chance otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs," a female cop told the girl, as officers attempted to push the distraught child into the back of a police cruiser. "Last chance!"
A male officer can then be heard saying: "Just spray her at this point." Moments later, he fires his own canister of pepper spray on the girl, causing her to shriek and thrash in the back seat of the vehicle, according to the footage.
The disturbing incident comes months after Rochester police made national headlines following the death of Daniel Prude, who died of suffocation after officers placed him in a spit hood and knelt on his back for several minutes. In both cases, the victims were Black residents, while their arresting officers were white.
Police detained the 9-year-old girl on Friday while responding to a "family dispute," according to city officials. At a press conference, Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson said the officers were trying to "secure" the girl, and that she was suicidal.
At one point, an officer can be heard telling the girl that she's "acting like a child,” to which she responds: “I am a child.”
On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James called the officers' behavior "wholly unacceptable," adding that her office was investigating the incident.
At least six police cars responded to the scene. Late last month, Rochester launched a pilot program for a new, non-law enforcement emergency response team for "people experiencing emotional or behavioral turmoil."
At a news conference on Sunday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren condemned the use of pepper spray. “I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see,” she said. “This is not something that any of us should want to justify, can justify."
Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, who was hired in September, after the previous commissioner resigned amid accusations of a cover-up in Prude's death, also acknowledged the video was painful to watch. "I'm not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is okay,” she said.
Neither of the officers' names have been released. The girl was taken to a Rochester hospital on Friday, and has since been released to her family.