Originally published on May 14, 2015, at NationofChange.org
The NAACP released a video this week of a police officer shooting pepper spray into the faces of two handcuffed teenagers sitting inside a holding cell. After receiving the video in the mail, the president of the Alton NAACP decided to share the video with the public. Although Alton Police Chief Jason Simmons knew about the abuse since March, he admitted that it took the officers involved two months before finally writing a report on the incident.
In the video dated January 26, 2015, two handcuffed teenagers are waiting in a holding area at the Alton Police Department in Illinois. The teens remain seated when the door opens and Officer Vince Warlick appears in the doorway holding a can of pepper spray. After briefly speaking to them, Warlick suddenly maces both of them in the face without provocation.
One of the teens writhes in agony for several minutes, while the other struggles to remain composed. Both are reportedly residents of the Catholic Children’s Home in Alton.
“It’s infuriating to me to see this officer coming in and spraying these kids who are handcuffed,” said James Gray, President of the Alton NAACP.
After receiving the video in the mail, Gray decided to share it with the public by showing the video to local news station, KMOV. Gray has been critical of Alton Police Chief Jason Simmons’ methods and suspects further civil rights violations have taken place under his command.
“He’s up for re-appointment but I do not think he should be reappointed, he has to know about this and possibly many more things like this they haven’t sent to me,” Gray asserted.
After receiving a copy of the video last week, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has acknowledged that he plans to forward it to Illinois State Police and open an investigation. Roughly three weeks after the incident, a high-ranking officer in the Alton Police Department discovered the abuse while reviewing the jail’s surveillance videos. The officer notified Chief Simmons who claims that he learned about the incident in March.
According to Simmons, he did not receive an incident report from the officers involved until May 6. Upset with the officers, Simmons believes that they delayed completing their report because they don’t agree with some of his reforms and are attempting to get him fired.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Alton Police Department public information officer Emily Hejna wrote, “Chief Jason Simmons noted that the video was released prior to the completion of an internal investigation, and as such, the result of that investigation is not available at this time. This is a very serious issue and we will investigate it completely. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken once that investigation is concluded. The Alton police will not be releasing the video as juveniles are shown in the footage. Chief Simmons said, ‘I am extremely disappointed that someone would release a video including juveniles to anyone outside of the legal process.’”