The police in DeKalb County, Ga., have reopened an investigation after a video surfaced online showing an officer repeatedly striking a homeless woman with his baton during a panhandling arrest.
The woman, Katie McCrary, 38, was asking passers-by for money at a gas station convenience store on June 4 in Decatur, Ga., according to the police report. After staff members there called the police, Officer P.J. Larscheid of the county police arrived and ended up pinning Ms. McCrary to the ground in an effort to handcuff her. The department investigated his use of force and cleared him, but then the video surfaced.
In the video, Ms. McCrary can be seen struggling and asking, “What did I do?” as the officer appeared to strike her with the baton more than a dozen times.
In the last few years, the combination of widespread video cameras and social media has focused greater scrutiny on police behavior during arrests involving episodes ranging from forcible detentions to fatal shootings.
Footage of the June 4 arrest was captured on a cellphone video by Stacy Zachery, 41, a local resident, who shared it with friends and family before her son posted it on her YouTube account in mid-June. It sparked criticism on social media and came to the attention of the DeKalb County Police Department last weekend.
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Officer Larscheid has been placed on administrative duty while the new investigation is underway. But Shiera Campbell, the public information officer for the police, said it was too early to say whether he had acted inappropriately.
“It’s not that we’re saying he did something wrong,” she said. “We’re just looking at the video to make sure that it aligns with his original statement.”
Ms. Zachery was walking into the gas station’s convenience store when she saw Ms. McCrary asking for money outside. Moments later, in the store, she saw Ms. McCrary enter, along with an officer.
According to the incident report filed last month, Ms. McCrary had told Officer Larscheid that she was a federal agent and had given him a “random badge number.”
“When I told her that she could be arrested for impersonating an officer, she told me that I was impersonating an officer and then reached out and grabbed my badge,” the report continued.
The report added that Ms. McCrary also grabbed Officer Larscheid’s vest and radio. Then, when she refused his order to get on the ground, the officer wrote that he “delivered an unknown amount of baton strikes to her left leg. The female then dropped to the ground and began kicking me.”
Ms. Zachery said she was shopping when she heard the sounds of a scuffle. “I saw that Katie was on the floor, so I was like, ‘What is going on?’” she said. “And that’s when I started recording.”
In the video, Ms. Zachery and a man behind the camera can be heard repeatedly telling Ms. McCrary to stop resisting.
The officer can be seen striking her and then using his baton to hold Ms. McCrary down while telling her to lie on her stomach and put her hands behind her back. She continued to kick her legs, and when she put her hands on the baton, Officer Larscheid said: “Let it go or I’m going to shoot you.”
“No, please don’t shoot her,” Ms. Zachery said, off camera.
Once Ms. McCrary had turned onto her stomach, Officer Larscheid tossed the baton aside and handcuffed her before leading her to his patrol car. Ms. McCrary received medical attention and was given a warning after the episode, according to Officer Larscheid’s report.
Ms. Zachery said she was saddened by what she saw. She said Ms. McCrary is homeless — the incident report said the same — and was known for soliciting money in the area.
“Everybody that lives in the Decatur area knows Katie and knows that she has a mental problem,” Ms. Zachery said. “She wouldn’t lash out at anybody. She was just trying to figure out what she did, to get what she got.”