Pennsylvania Cop Put 14-Year-Old in Chokehold, Chief Says ‘I Don’t Feel It’s Necessary’ to Remove Him or Other Officers From Patrol
An investigation is underway following a brawl between police and a group of teenagers at a church carnival in Norristown on Saturday. Video of the incident, which captures an officer putting a teenager in a chokehold, has prompted backlash after going viral on social media.
“My leadership team and I are investigating [Saturday] night’s events at St. Francis,” Police Chief Mark E. Talbot Sr. said in a statement Sunday. “A complete and thorough review will be conducted.”
The melee occurred around 8:30 p.m. on the last day of the Saint Francis of Assisi Carnival, a five-day affair at Buttonwood and Oak streets. Police say they responded to break up a fight between dozens of juveniles. Video of the brawl shows punches being thrown by both officers and juveniles.
FOX 29 spoke with 14-year-old Imarah Bates, who video captured in the chokehold.
“I kept telling him I couldn’t breathe and he kept telling me to shut up over and over,” Bates said.
“For that cop to come behind her and choke her like that, there was no reason,” said her mother, Alisha Bates. “He didn’t see her do anything.”
“When you look at what the officers were confronted with, it is important to put the video in context of everything that was occurring,” said Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot. “I’m not gonna say that everything they did was absolutely right. I’m not going to say it was absolutely wrong.”
Talbot met with concerned residents at Norristown’s Municipal Hall on Sunday afternoon to address the incident.
One parent, who did not want to be identified, said adults were being attacked by kids as they rushed to grab their small children off of a dragon ride in another area of the carnival before police arrived.
“I think their safety was definitely at risk when it was 100 kids surrounding the cops, hitting the cops, fighting. Their safety was definitely at risk,” the parent said.
“They were screaming at them to let her go and that’s where the anger and the mob came from. The girl was being choked for so long and terribly. They were afraid for her life, so they were screaming at them,” Alisha Bates said.
One parent, whose daughter is captured on video, says the teen was punched by one of the officers and is currently in juvenile detention awaiting a 9 a.m. trial Monday.
As the carnival packed up and moved out, Talbot says he’s concerned about inflammatory social media comments that could make matters worse.
“I’m hoping today to put a little bit of truth into the conversation and account for what people would like to see happen,” Chief Talbot said.
“It is very hard to look at and it just makes all of us ask, where are we going as a society? What have we been reduced to,” Rev. James Goerner, Pastor at Saint Francis of Assisi, said.
He says 25, 30 years running, there’s maybe been maybe one or two minor fight among kids, which were quickly disbursed. This may change a community tradition and jeopardize the church’s biggest fundraiser.
“Really ask ourselves what is it that we want to do going forward,” Rev. Goerner said.