Ohio Police Accused of Breaking Jaw and Rib of Black Girl

June 17th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

New video has emerged of a tense altercation between several police officers and a group of Black teenagers outside of a pool in Fairfield, Ohio, about 25 miles north of Cincinnati last week.

After a minor breach of pool rules, in which a child allegedly did not have proper swimming attire, staff members asked the group––a family including two mothers, siblings, nieces, and nephews––to leave because of their reaction to being told they were breaking the rules. But that's when things appeared to escalate as officers attempting to remove a mother were confronted by several kids. The officers responded with what some have called unnecessary force. One young girl was pepper sprayed, and a 12-year-old girl was pushed up against a squad car, according to reports and videos of the incident captured on surveillance cameras and a bystander's cell phone.

Two mothers were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A 12-year-old girl was also charged with assault and resisting arrest, and a 15-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the Daily Beast reports.

"I could surmise or opine on why [pool staff] wanted them out. They said they're not appropriately dressed. I'm not convinced that's why they wanted them out of the pool," Clyde Bennett, an attorney for one of the mothers, told the Daily Beast. "There's a lot of people in Cincinnati who believe they wanted them out ... because they were black."

A video captured on a bystander's phone has drawn national media attention, appearing to show what observers are calling excessive force as officers attempt to remove two mothers and an unidentified boy from the gate of the pool building's exterior, which they are holding onto. As the officers try to pry them off of the gate's railings, kids can be seen pushing back against the officers, who respond by pulling a 12-year-old girl away from the scene by the neck, and handcuffing her up against a squad car. Another young girl is maced.

One of the mothers arrested was six months pregnant and was rushed to the hospital following the incident. She suffered no injuries, but the family of the 12-year-old who was pushed against a squad car is claiming she sustained a fractured jaw and broken ribs. Another girl had to have her eyes washed out. The family says they are the victims of the latest example of police using excessive force against Black teens.

"You've got a six-months pregnant woman trying to get her kids out of the pool, and before she could do that she was arrested," Bennett told the Daily Beast.

But Fairfield police maintain that their officers were in the right, claiming that after being asked to leave, the family "refused to leave and became even more verbally aggressive and belligerent," officer Doug Day told the Daily Beast, saying that after a park ranger stationed at the pool placed a hand on one of the mothers, the children and her sister "started jumping on the the park ranger's back[.]"

"Our officers used great restraint," he said, adding that at "one point, one of our officers felt his gun was being taken away from him. The only weapon he used was the OC spray, to get someone off the back of the officer." He said police were only informed about the alleged injuries after a press conference Tuesday and that they denied claims of excessive force.

In a 911 call obtained by a local NBC affiliate, a pool employee describes the situation as "crazy."

"There's two officers here and they are fighting with them. They are beating up the officers and breaking out the handcuffs. We need you guys immediately," she told the dispatcher. "Everything's going crazy and they're videotaping, trying to make it look like a racist thing and it's not at all. They were breaking our policy and we told them they couldn't be here anymore, and it's really scary and I don't feel safe," the employee says, her voice breaking.

The incident is coming to light days after unsettling video footage emerged of a police officer in McKinney, Texas, responding to complaints of a raucous pool party by slamming a teenaged black girl into the ground and briefly pulling out his gun. The officer has since resigned. The footage of the Fairfield pool incident is not as shocking as the McKinney footage, though it raises questions about underlying racial tensions as well as the police response to the situation.