PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Residents of a Providence neighborhood are outraged after they claim police officers attacked them and their children earlier this week.
The officers responded to Sayles Street Tuesday for reports of an escalating dispute among neighbors. The residents claim several adults and children as young as a year old were beaten, pepper-sprayed and shoved into the back of police cruisers.
The incident was caught on camera and the video was obtained by 12 News. The footage shows officers yelling at the residents and hitting some of them with their batons. One officer was seen pepper-spraying the crowd as officers attempted to detain someone on the sidewalk behind him.
Taffii Moore and her children were among that crowd. She claims the feud had already resolved itself when police arrived.
“They attacked us. They attacked our children,” she said. “They attacked everyone who was at this home … We weren’t aggressive, we weren’t argumentative.”
Moore’s 21-year-old daughter, Zyrray Moore, said she was one of several who were shoved into the back of a police van which didn’t have the air conditioner running.
“One of the officers was just [leaning on] the back of the van as we were banging on it,” Zyrray recalled, adding that the officers were “just laughing and talking to each other … like we are not in the back of the van with our eyes burning.”
The residents are now demanding a public apology from the Providence Police Department. They also want the officers to be held accountable for their actions.
“For them to want to protect and serve, which is what they’re supposed to do … they didn’t do anything like that,” Zyrray said wiping away tears. “They had us in the back of that van for almost an hour.”
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said no disciplinary action has been taken against the officers involved, however, the incident remains under investigation.
The Providence Police Department released nearly an hour’s worth of body cam footage from the incident Thursday night, which appears to show a large crowd of residents gathered both on the sidewalk and in the street.
In the footage, officers can be heard discussing the situation, which they believed to be a feud between at least two households. Several of the residents could also be heard in the footage cursing at officers and one another throughout the ordeal.
“This is a complete disaster,” one officer can be heard saying. “These two houses hate each other.”
“You want to act like animals? I don’t want to hear it,” another officer exclaimed to one of his colleagues, referring to the residents.
Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh Clements tells 12 News this is not the first time officers have been called to this neighborhood for disturbances.
“I will tell you we’ve been to that house in the last year and a half 42 times,” he said, adding that officers had been called to the neighborhood three times that night alone.
When asked about why officers pepper-sprayed the residents, Clements said they were using it to create distance between them and the crowd, which had become hostile.
Clements said in total, five people were arrested, including Zyrray, who was charged with assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The other four residents who were arrested were juveniles, all of which were charged with disorderly conduct, according to the police report. One of those juveniles was also charged with obstructing and assault on a police officer
The department plans to hold a media briefing about the incident Friday morning.