Three St. Paul officers caught on camera in a struggle to arrest a 13-year-old girl last week are now facing an internal affairs investigation into their conduct, one day after Mayor Melvin Carter described the video as “disturbing” and called for an inquiry.
In an emotional news conference Thursday night, the teen’s mother said her daughter has been battling mental illness and accused authorities of provoking her with an overly aggressive response.
“She was basically treated like an animal,” said Davida Conover, adding that her daughter has had several previous run-ins with the officers involved. “They are fully aware of this.”
Conover, whose daughter is black, accused the officers of racial bias. All three officers are white.
But department officials say the incident began after the teen violated a no-trespassing order, fled police and ultimately resisted arrest.
St. Paul Police Federation President Paul Kuntz praised the officers’ professionalism in a situation where he says the suspect ignored instructions and acted aggressively toward police.
“I think they used the minimal amount of force that they possibly could to get her under control,” Kuntz said. “There were no punches. … Nothing of that nature.”
Officers Alexander Graham, Grady Sheehy and Charles Busch are each the subject of an internal affairs investigation opened Thursday, according to personnel records.
The two-minute video captured by a bystander inside a UPS store on University Avenue last Thursday depicts the three officers trying to restrain the girl’s arms and legs as she screams and thrashes on the ground. She repeatedly kicks at the men as she yells, “Don’t touch me!”
The girl was taken to the juvenile detention center on suspicion of felony assault, obstructing the legal process, fleeing a police officer and trespassing. Her mother wouldn’t say whether she’s been formally charged.
The widely viewed video has since been removed from Facebook.
Carter acknowledged that a snippet of the altercation “doesn’t tell the whole picture,” and urged community members not to villainize the child or responding officers “before we have a full reading of the facts.”