Outrage following a viral video of a Norristown, Pennsylvania, police officer putting a teenage girl in a chokehold has spawned an investigation by the police department in the Philadelphia suburb.
The chaotic clip shows a white police officer putting a Black girl, who KYW Newsradio reported is 14-year-old Imarah Bates, in a chokehold on the ground while another officer, who also appears to be white, shoves a crowd of predominantly Black teens who gathered around.
As teens try to get close to the officer with Imarah, he punches at them, prompting one to take several swings at the back of his neck. A second officer swoops in and pulls off the teen before they end up on the ground, too. Then, other teens began taking aim at the second officer before a third cop steps in to push them away. The officer finally manages to get them to disperse by threatening to deploy pepper spray.
“Get back! Get back!” he’s heard repeatedly shouting.
“I didn’t know what to think at all,” Imarah told KYW at a Sunday public meeting hosted by Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot. “All I know is that I was being choked and couldn’t breathe.” She said she was placed in a Norristown police cruiser at the scene but was not charged with a crime.
Speaking about what led to the fight at the same meeting, Tanesha Webb, the mother of a 12-year-old who was involved in the scuffle, told WHYY the skirmish started when her daughter, Teh-Airrah, and Imarah along with Teh-Airrah’s 13-year-old friend were attacked by older girls.
Teh-Airrah is a teen who got shoved when approaching the officer who put Imarah in the chokehold.
“They went from being victims of the young ladies who jumped them to directly being victims of the police officers who attacked them later,” said Webb.
The incident occurred on the night of Saturday, May 11, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, where a carnival was taking place, according to the Philly Voice. Authorities were called at around 8 p.m. and responded to reports of fights breaking out among what WHYY reported was a crowd of 50 to 100 juveniles.
Outrage came quickly on social media as the clip spread online.
“THAT THATS JUST MESSED UP I SWEAR.”
“this is disgusting and sickening.”
“Lame ash fosho makes me sick to my stomach🙄😴”
A day after the incident, Talbot held a press conference and community meeting, which about 50 people attended to discuss what occurred. He only confirmed that at least one person involved remains in custody. Meanwhile, the officers involved remain on active duty, despite protests for their removal from meeting attendees.
“Based on my initial review of the facts, I don’t feel it’s necessary to pull these officers off the street,” Talbot said.
“Arriving officers were confronted with many juveniles. Most of them chose not to comply,” he explained of the officers’ actions on video. “Officers reported being shoved, punched, kicked. Officers reported that they had drinks thrown on them. Officers reported that they were overwhelmed with the crowd of people that were out there.”
He also explained that police are trained to control the torsos of those being apprehended. However, he acknowledged, “It looks terrible.”
“When you’re taking someone into custody and [they] are not complying and you’re on the ground and you’re vulnerable to attack from behind, it’s not a pretty encounter,” he went on.
He also noted that “everybody walked away safely” and “everybody went home,” which Webb disputed by noting her daughter was shoved.