Tampa Police release street and body cam videos showing arrest of 17-year-old 'umbrella girl' protester

So far, no comment on police video of a separate arrest where a protest organizer was reportedly “violently body slammed.”

click to enlarge Tampa Police the 'umbrella girl' protestor on June 4, 2020. - Ashley Dieudonne
Ashley Dieudonne
Tampa Police the 'umbrella girl' protestor on June 4, 2020.

At a Friday afternoon press conference Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan promised to release street and body cam video showing why officers arrested an umbrella-wielding protester on Thursday, just before pepper-spraying a large group of demonstrators near the I-275/I-4 onramp near the intersection of Jefferson and Scott Streets.

That protester is a 17-year-old charged with two counts of assault on a law officer.

“There was one arrest where a woman had an umbrella. She had hit a police officer. It was a long spike at the end of the umbrella, and hit a police officer with it—a few minutes earlier” Dugan said to reporters. “Well then, when she came up she was peacefully protesting. But we arrested her for what she did prior to that, and so it looks like we arrested a peaceful protester.”

Photos: Cops are already pepper-spraying protesters at Thursday’s downtown Tampa rally

In a post-press conference email to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Jamel Laneè, Public Information Officer for the Tampa Police Department, detailed what can be seen in street cam video and body cam video from the incident.

Leneé said the street cam video shows “One person throws something at officers” and another person with a fire extinguisher who deploys smoke.

“People think we did that and it wasn't us. That is where the confusion is,” Leneé wrote, adding that “one person throws something at officers… Another person has a fire extinguisher and deploys smoke, but people think we did that and it wasn't us. That is where the confusion is.”

Leneé said additional body camera footage shows officers arresting umbrella girl using “proper techniques” plus the arrests of two other people who tried to intervene with umbrella girl being arrested.

The release includes mugshots, charges, police narrative of the incident and what Leneé described as "video of whats going viral from the other side.”

The videos she referred to come from what’s reportedly the sole violent clash between protestors and police on Thursday night.

CL asked about whether or not it was overkill to have three officers subdue someone with an umbrella.

“Yes, we anticipate many will think this,” Leneé said. “But had she really poked one of our officers with the end of that tip, could have caused serious damage. She was thrashing the umbrella at them. When she used it in the manner she did, it became a weapon.”

Stephanie Sanchez, 21, was also arrested and charged with two counts of assault on a law officer.

CL also asked about any potential camera footage showing the arrest of an event organizer with a bullhorn who a witness says was “violently body slammed” by officers. The organizer is identified as Emadi Okwuosa in a change.org petition demanding officials drop the “inciting a riot” charges against him. In a social media video posted on Friday morning, Okwuosa describes how he was cornered by police while a friend watched him get arrested.

“I said 'record this.' As she’s recording, two officers arrest her for absolutely no reason and then say she allegedly assaulted them,” Okwuosa, 22, said. “When she has video proof that she did not, which you guys will see.”

We’ll update this post with any Tampa Police response to that arrest.

In his video, Okwuosa (who, Dugan said during the press conference described as someone who “made himself an organizer”) stated how he saw the umbrella girl arrested.

“This girl is walking with her umbrella. The police officer grabs the umbrella, and she refuses to let go as she should. That's her umbrella. Why are you assaulting this girl who is walking peacefully?,” Okwuosa said, adding that there was a struggle and that the cops pulled her from the crowd and arrested her in front of everyone.

“Four cops on a five-foot-five girl,” Okwuosa added. He then described how pepper spray was deployed to disperse the crowd, adding that he got it on his face.

“Imagine this girl who's laying in that pepper spray being handcuffed with four cops on her. Imagine a 17-year-old girl who was only there for a peaceful protest,” Okwuosa said. “I told everyone, it would be a peaceful protest. People took my word for that because it should have been a peaceful protest.”

Photos from Thursday’s protests in downtown Tampa

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor opened today’s 35-minute press conference with a simple message: “We Hear You.”

“I've seen the outrage in our community in the last few days. I've heard the stories of people here in Tampa who have been victims of racial injustice and the effects of racial disparity—and I hear you, and I see you,” Castor said. “I've also seen a peaceful protest open hearts and minds and focus attention on the systematic issues that our entire city needs to focus on, so that we can address them and make this nation whole for everyone.”

She addressed the large number of citizens who contacted her office about the #8cantwait social media campaign demanding that police departments adopt eight policies that “can decrease police violence by 72%.”

“I want to share that Tampa has had these eight policies in place for years,” Castor said, “We have provided documentation on our website that outlines every policy every procedure, the training and the legal bulletins associated with all eight of those, and again, all of those policies and procedures and training were in place, way before I retired from the Tampa police department.”

The eight policies are:

  • Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
  • Require De-Escalation
    Require Warning Before Shooting
  • Requires Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting
  • Duty to Intervene
  • Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
  • Require Use of Force Continuum
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting

Castor also pledged to have Dr. Lorie Fridell, a professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, re-train officers in the Fair & Impartial Policing program she helped co-found.

At the press conference, Fridell said Fair & Impartial Policing training recognizes that bias comes in more than just one form.

“For many years, we thought that bias was like the racist, who had conscious and deliberate biases based on animus; people who are unconcerned about their discriminatory behavior is the way we thought all bias manifested,” Fridell said.

“And then the social psychologists found out that we all have implicit biases and with implicit biases, we link groups to various stereotypes, not based on animus and hostility,” Fridell added. “These stereotypes can impact our perceptions and our behaviors, outside of conscious awareness. And this can impact even well intentioned people who reject at the conscious level biases stereotypes and prejudice.”

Dugan said his officers have felt “devastated,” and that “like people hate them” in the wake of a week of protest in response to the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer last Monday.

Fridell said she and Dugan were looking at completing training for Tampa officers in August.

Castor made it a point to say that despite plans for more training and the body cams City Council green-lighted this week, the city has a “long way to go,” 

“You can see it, you can feel it. You can hear it in the protesters in our community. We have changes to make and have a long way to go,” Castor said.

“I want everyone to understand that we hear that voice, but we also want that energy to continue on into fixing those systemic issues that have held down the Black and brown community for so long. It's not going to be easy. The problems didn't arise overnight, and they're not going to be fixed overnight, but if we come together as a community to address those issues and find real solutions, we will be able to lift our entire community up.”

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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