Teen girl pepper-sprayed by Hagerstown police seeks compensation, police training

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- A 15-year-old girl who was pepper-sprayed while fighting with police after her bicycle hit a car is demanding unspecified compensation, her lawyer said Monday. She is also demanding that police undergo more training.

Hagerstown city spokeswoman Erin Anderson confirmed that the city received the letter that attorney Robin Ficker sent Thursday to Mayor David Gysberts, Police Chief Victor Brito, four city police officers and all five City Council members. Anderson said the city "will be engaging our legal counsel to move forward as necessary."

Brito has said the officers acted properly in forcibly handcuffing the girl and using pepper spray to get her into a cruiser so they could take her to police headquarters and question her about the Sept. 18 accident. A police video of the arrest shows the girl cursing and kicking at officers who refused to let her leave the accident scene. She was later diagnosed at a hospital with a possible concussion.

Police charged her with assault, disorderly conduct, a traffic violation and marijuana possession, but Ficker said those charges were resolved informally, without punishment, by the state Department of Juvenile Services.

In the letter, Ficker and attorney Denise Banjavic told Hagerstown officials that the girl and her parents intend to file a lawsuit alleging denial of due process unless their demands are met. Written notice is a prerequisite to suing a municipality under Maryland's Local Government Tort Claims Act.

Ficker said the letter doesn't specify the amount of compensation because he wants to discuss that with city officials.

He said the police training would involve arrests of accident victims, the use of pepper spray during arrests and techniques for arresting juvenile females.


This story has been corrected to show the letter was sent Thursday, not Sept. 3