What to Know
- Videos show teens and police fighting at a carnival in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
- One of the officers in the video appears to place a teen girl in a chokehold and exchanges punches with another.
- Police say several arrests were made and they continue to investigate the incident.
Police in Montgomery County are investigating after an officer was captured on video seemingly applying a chokehold to a teenage girl and exchanging punches with another during a melee at a community carnival.
Various cellphone videos show two Norristown Police Department officers attempting to detain a grounded teenage girl as a group of shouting juveniles surrounds them Saturday night at the St. Francis Spring Carnival in Norristown. The officers were responding to a call of a fight involving more than 50 youths, Norristown Chief of Police Mark Talbot said.
"The crowd ignored all orders by the police and continued to fight. Officers reported being kicked, shoved, and punched and were forced to call for assistance from several surrounding departments," Talbot said.
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One video shows that as one officer pins to the ground the girl who they were initially trying to detain, a second officer tries to keep the crowd away. The second officer then goes to assist his partner, which is when some of the teens get closer, one girl reaching between the girl on the ground and the officers.
The second officer then shoves the girl away and gets up, apparently trying to detain her. Various teens then swarm him as two other girls turn their attention to the girl and the officer still on the ground.
The girls stand inches away from the officer, who is now using his left arm to hold on to the grounded girl by the throat, and repeatedly shout at him as he motions for them to get back.
One of them takes a step toward the officer, prompting him to punch her in the torso with his free hand. As the second officer returns and continues to keep the crowd at bay, the second girl juts her head toward the grounded officer and continues to shout at him, which is when he uses his free hand and seemingly punches her in the face.
The girl responds by punching the officer four times in the head before his partner tackles her to the ground.
Various youths then get on top of both officers, seemingly grabbing at them and trying to pull them off the girls.
A third officer finally arrives, pushing away many of the juveniles before grabbing his pepper spray and repeatedly shouting at them to "get back." That's when many of the teens run away and an onlooker seemingly attempts to shield the police as the third officer assists the other two in trying to detain the grounded girls.
Officers made "several" arrests, Talbot said.
"A full and thorough investigation is being conducted. We are committed to uncovering all of the relevant facts and will proceed in a transparent and impartial fashion," the chief added.
On Sunday, Chief Talbot held an open forum in which he addressed the community's concerns regarding the video.
"This is not a racist police department," Talbot said. "This wasn't an act of terror by police. These officers were overcoming a significant amount of resistance."
Police will investigate the conduct of the officers involved and determine whether the hold the officer placed on the girl was warranted.
The teen girl who was placed in the headlock as well as her mother both spoke to NBC10. The girl claims the responding officers mistakenly believed she was involved in an earlier fight between a group of teens.
"I was saying, 'I can't breathe. Can you please let me go?' It was pressing right on my neck. I couldn't breathe at all. It was terrible," the girl told NBC10.
The girl also said her cousin was the teen who was punched by the officer and later body slammed to the ground. The girl's cousin remains in custody and will have a court hearing Monday after being accused of assaulting an officer.
The girl and her mother both want an apology from the officer and for him to be fired.
Josh Nelson, who attended the carnival with his family and witnessed the fight, defended the officers' actions, telling NBC10 they did nothing wrong.
"They did what they had to do," Nelson said. "They jumped in the middle of the crowd. Started moving people. People started hitting them. They were just pretty much trying to police the situation."
On Monday at 2 p.m., students from nearby Stewart Middle School walked out of class and arrived at the carnival site to protest the incident. They said they wanted the officers involved to be held accountable but they also condemned the actions of the teens who were fighting as well.
"I'm helping them to understand it was two," Yvette Madden, one of the students, told NBC10. "It was both parties. They made some wrongs. The officers made some wrongs as well."
NBC10 also spoke with Jamison Rogers, a police expert who analyzed the videos and concluded the officers handled the situation as best as they could.
"There are guns that are exposed to the backs of the officers that anyone could get a hold of," Rogers said. "I do believe there was an immense amount of restraint."
Rogers also pointed out that no weapons were drawn during the altercation.
All of the officers involved in the incident remain on duty as the investigation continues.