Cleveland, Ohio – Graphic Body Camera footage has been released that shows police officers forcing a mentally ill woman to remove her clothes, and then violently slamming her to the ground, covering her face with pepper spray, and forcing her to answer a series of questions before giving her medical aid.
The video was released by Cuyahoga County after a judge granted a request submitted by Cleveland.com. The evidence details an incident that took place in May 2016, after officers arrested a woman for a nonviolent offense, and a municipal court judge ordered that she be held in jail until a mental health evaluation could be conducted.
In order to conduct the evaluation, a female guard ordered the woman to go into her cell and take off her clothes. When she did not comply, the guard called for backup, and Corporal Brendan Johnson arrived.
The Body Cam was being worn by Johnson, as he pushed the woman into the cell and then ordered to her take off her clothes. The woman responded by taking off her clothes while swaying and singing phrases such as “You wanna see my tits?” “I’ll dance for you!” and “Make the pedophiles happy.”
As soon as the woman turned around and began to remove her pants, Johnson kicked her legs out from underneath her, and she fell to the ground. He then proceeded to spray her in the face with pepper spray multiple times, and as she coughed and flailed in response, he yelled, “Stop resisting!”
“Abuse! Abuse! Abuse of power,” the woman continued to sing as she lay face down on the floor while Johnson secured her wrists with handcuffs and other officers obtained a wheelchair.
The officers pulled the woman up from the ground and sat her in a wheelchair, instructing her to “sit back,” even though the handcuffs she was wearing prevented her from doing so. At least six male officers surrounded her as she sat naked in the wheelchair while they secured her ankles with handcuffs.
While the scenario does raise questions about why male officers were ordering a female inmate to take off her clothes, and then secured her naked body into a wheelchair, before finally providing a blanket to act as a covering, Cleveland.com reported that “County officials have said previously that male supervisors are allowed to order female inmates to disrobe if there are no female supervisors available.”
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Several minutes elapsed as the officers transported the woman to a different room for a mental health evaluation, and during that time, her face was still soiled with pepper spray. She began to cry in pain and said that her eyes hurt.
The officers wheeled the woman into a room with a sink and then turned on the hose. However, instead of using the running water to provide relief, one officer used it to torture the woman, by asking her a series of medical questions while she cried and begged for him to wash out her eyes.
"God I just want this burning out of my eyes," the woman pleaded. "You have water right there. But you're evil. Evil men."
It was not until Johnson told his radio that the woman “refused to answer all questions” and then ordered the guard to “decontaminate her” that the guard began washing her face with water.
The graphic video presents a number of alarming actions, which include the fact that a group of male officers disrobed a female inmate and then transported her naked body across the building, and the fact that they tortured her with the promise of medical relief, in exchange for information.
The officer who assaulted the woman and presided over the torture as she begged for relief, Brendan Johnson, was also investigated for an incident that happened two days before. He was responding to a female inmate who flooded the toilet in her jail cell, and when she told him that she did not want to talk about it, he covered her face in pepper spray twice, and said, "I told you I'd get you," before forcing the inmate to the ground in her flooded cell and placing handcuffs on her wrists.
Cleveland.com reported that while Johnson was actually fired for using excessive force in both incidents, an arbitrator overturned his firing and he got his job back.