Police in Muskogee, Oklahoma are facing a backlash after releasing bodycam footage showing an officer pepper-spraying an elderly African-American woman inside her home.
The incident took place at 2:45am on August 7, when officers from the Muskogee police department chased an African-American man who ran a stop sign. Arthur Blackmon, 56, fled to his mother’s house.
The video shows police kicking down the door of the house, hitting Blackmon with a Taser. A female officer can be heard ordering around Geneve Smith, 84, who is protesting the police presence. After about 40 seconds, the officer pepper-sprays Smith, who falls to the floor.
Police behavior was reasonable “given the totality of the circumstances,” Scott Wood, attorney for the city, told the Muskogee Phoenix.
“It starts off as a traffic stop – that’s a low misdemeanor – but based on the other evidence gathered in those three minutes… it could be a severe crime. It could have been a home invasion,” Wood said.
Smith had failed to comply with officers’ orders and actively resisted by turning away and facing her kitchen, Wood explained, citing Police Chief Rex Eskridge. The department’s use-of-force guidelines say that pepper spray should be used for passive resistance.
When she used the pepper spray, Officer Michele Casady believed she had been acting within the department’s guidelines, Eskridge told the newspaper on Friday.
Both the use of force and the officers entering the house without a warrant are being investigated internally.