Body camera footage released of U.Md. pepper spray incident

WASHINGTON — The University of Maryland has released body camera footage from a May 21 incident where pepper spray was deployed as police tried to break up a large graduation party.

Authorities say it began with what later turned out to be a false 911 call about a fight with a weapon at the party at an apartment at the Courtyards Apartment complex off of University Boulevard.

Two officer body camera videos were released by the university from the party made up of primarily African-Americans.

The first video (shown below) shows officers speaking with a group of people. One person tells the responding officers that there is fighting at the party as another tells officers that they saw someone with a baseball bat.

Editor’s note: This video contains explicit language and may not be appropriate for some viewers.

In a 911 call also released with the videos, the caller alleged there was underage drinking at the party. The person who called 911 faces criminal charges after police discovered they made the phony call because they were denied access to the party.

The second video (shown below) taken from an officer’s body camera shows two officers knocking on the door of the apartment. A woman answers the door and officers tell her they need to come in and to check on reports of a fight. When the officers are refused entry, they call for the party to end.

According to the internal investigation which came out almost a week before the videos were released, some inside the apartment left willingly and others did not.

At one point, officers are trying to clear a hallway outside the apartment. Pepper spray is deployed as one officer yells at the crowd to “get back.”

Next, a woman can be seen being escorted away in handcuffs. She asks officers why she is being arrested and a female officer calls out several charges.

Shortly after that, a second deployment of pepper spray took place in the parking lot where paramedics were treating people involved in the first spraying. The report says during the second deployment, an officer sprayed a partygoer they believed was being uncooperative with another officer.

In all, two people were arrested by police that evening. The charges against both students have since been dropped.

The report found that both deployments of pepper spray were justified in the eye of law, but the second use did not meet guidelines set by the university. The officer who used pepper spray during the second deployment was given two weeks of unpaid suspension.

The police department’s chief David Mitchell told WTOP last week that his officers should have used more diplomacy and worked to deescalate the situation.

“Here’s the bottom line: it should not have come to the use of pepper spray whatsoever,” Mitchell said.

The chief said use of force policies will be reviewed and he has ordered training in areas of implicit bias and diversity for every officer in the department.

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