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Mother of girl pepper-sprayed in Rochester said she was having mental breakdown

Mother of girl pepper-sprayed in Rochester said she was having mental breakdown
© Getty Images

Elba Pope, the Rochester, N.Y., woman whose 9-year-old daughter was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police this week, said she told officers her daughter was having a mental health crisis but was ignored.

Pope said she told officers her daughter was having a breakdown and begged them to bring in a trained specialist instead of detaining her, but that they refused, according to The Washington Post. Mayor Lovely Warren (D) said Monday three officers would be suspended in connection with the incident.

Attorneys for Pope have filed a formal notice of intent to sue the city for “emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment,” according to the newspaper. Body camera footage shows Pope’s daughter sobbing as police attempt to force her, handcuffed, into a car.

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Pope has said she initially called police to file a report about the potential theft of her car, but that her daughter fled the house crying when they arrived. She said her daughter experienced a similar crisis in November, requiring her to be evaluated at a hospital under state law, and that she could immediately tell a mental health specialist was necessary.

“It just so happened she chose that moment to run out of the house, and I was like, ’Oh, my God, here we go,” Pope said. “I had to go get the officer and say, ’Sir, I know my daughter, and she is about to have a mental health slowdown, can you please contact someone?' ”

Lorenzo Napolitano, an attorney for Pope, noted that Rochester police were involved in a similar response to a mental health crisis last March.

Daniel Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the street amid a mental health episode, was put in a “spit hood” meant to keep bodily fluids away from police, who then pressed his face into the pavement for at least two minutes. Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support.

“This is not the first incident where Rochester police mishandled people who have had a mental health crisis ... and [Pope] would really like to see change,” Napolitano said, according to the newspaper.