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Police pepper spray suspect in mouth

June 11, 2010 3:32:43 PM PDT
A police officer in New Jersey pepper sprayed a man who was already on the ground and in handcuffs and it was all caught on camera.

A woman with a cell phone camera ran up the block as she had her camera rolling.

When she got to the scene you can see in the YouTube.com video two Paterson officers have a young man face down on the ground.

His hands are cuffed behind his back and the woman says they were trying to get drugs out of the man's mouth.

"In trying to do so, the other cop goes back to his car to get the pepper spray can, and they open his mouth and then put the pepper spray in his mouth and they proceeded to spray, and they did it on more than one occasion," said the woman.

The woman who took the video does not want to be identified because of fear of retaliation.

But the woman, and others who were there, couldn't believe their eyes when the officer started spraying.

Most people Eyewitness News spoke to pretty much agreed that the young man probably had drugs in his mouth, but that's not the issue.

What they are concerned with is while he is on the ground, handcuffed, and under the control of police, why did they then put pepper spray in his mouth?

Is it standard operating procedure or excessive force?

Paterson police will not answer that question, because the case is under investigation by internal affairs.

The Passaic County Prosecutor is investigating as well.

Lara Pope who lives in the area told Eyewitness News that she wants to know, what if the young man had asthma?

"I have Asthma, and I have breathing problems myself, had that been me, they could have killed him, anything could have happened," Pope said.

After the suspect was sprayed, police got him up on his feet, and a crowd began to form.

The officers can be heard telling the people to get out of there.

"At that point the officer is involved in a take down, the crowd is yelling, he's probably pretty nervous, yes, that's why I know to stand back," the woman said.

She stood back and continued to shoot the video which she then posted on YouTube.com where people have been commenting.

"Some people say he was right, some people say he was wrong, it's for the people to decide, I just shot it," the woman said.

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