An Ohio officer who deployed a Taser on an 11-year-old girl suspected of shoplifting food violated Cincinnati Police Department’s use of force policy, an internal review found.
Officer Kevin Brown was working an off-duty security job at a Kroger’s supermarket store on Aug. 6 when he noticed the girl and two friends leaving the store with unpaid items in her hand, police said. When Brown asked the girl to stop, she allegedly ignored his request and started to walk way.
That’s when, according to police, Brown fired his Taser at the girl, striking her in the back.
"The last thing I want to do, sweetheart, is tase you like that," Brown is heard telling the girl in body camera video footage released Tuesday along with the investigation's findings. "When I say stop, you stop. You know [you’re] caught, just stop. That hurt my heart to do that to you. Then I got to listen to all these idiots out here in the parking lot telling me how I was wrong for tasing you. You broke the law and fled as I tired to apprehend you."
The girl, identified as Donesha Gowdy, admitted to shoplifting candy, soda, chips and baby clothes — totaling $53.81 in value.
"You know what, sweetheart, this is why there's no grocery stores in the black community, because of all this going on," Brown told Gowdy after taking the stolen food out of a backpack, video shows.
Brown defended his comment about grocery stores in black communities, telling an investigator that the statement is not biased and is supported by statistics.
Gowdy was charged with theft and obstructing official business. The charges were later dropped, NBC affiliate WLWT reported.
She told NBC News in an interview last month, that she did not try to flee. Gowdy said she walked away and then felt the barbs of the Taser on her back.
"It hit my back real fast and then I stopped, then I fell and I was shaking and I couldn't really breathe," Gowdy told NBC News.
Brown, 55, acknowledged to investigators that Gowdy did not pose a threat to him or others and the internal review found his use of force was not justified. It also found that Brown violated police policy by not warning the girl before deploying his Taser and for not turning on his body camera until after he shocked her.
"Quite frankly, I believe the officer violated our policy. I believe the use of force was unnecessary in this particular circumstance," Police Chief Elliott Isaac said. "There will be a pre-disciplinary hearing."
Cincinnati police policy states that officers cannot deploy a Taser on children under the age of 7 and adults over the age of 70. Isaac told WLWT that the department is looking to make changes to the policy.
Donna Gowdy, Donesha’s mother, told NBC News that while daughter's actions were wrong, she feels whoever thought the current policy’s allowable age for which a child can be shocked by a stun gun "needs to step back and think.”
"I told my daughter: 'I hope you learn from this. You risked your life over some candy,'" Donna Gowdy added.