Police in Muskogee, OK have released footage of an officer spraying an elderly woman with a chemical irritant during a chaotic arrest in the middle of her home.
84-year-old Geneva Smith was sprayed her in the face for approximately one second with what local news station FOX23 described as pepper spray, as officers attempted to arrest her son, Arthur Paul Blackmon, 56, in the early hours of August 7. Speaking with that station, Muskogee police chief Rex Eskridge explained that the footage was released in an effort to be transparent about the situation, and to maintain the relationship between the department and the community.
According to the Muskogee Phoenix, police were pursuing Blackmon after he drove through a stop sign just before 3 AM on August 7. Chased by officers, Blackmon took shelter in his mother's house. Officers then kicked down the door and used a taser to stun Blackmon into submission. At this time Smith reportedly appeared in the room, and was told by officers to turn around. FOX23 reports that after approximately 40 seconds, Smith was given a blast of pepper spray directly into her face. Blackmon can reportedly be heard shouting "My mother’s 84 years old, motherfucker" in response.
Speaking with the Phoenix, Scott Wood, an attorney hired to represent the city, seemed confident that "given the totality of the circumstances," the incident was reasonable.
"It starts off as a traffic stop — that’s a low misdemeanor — but based on the other evidence gathered in those three minutes … it could be a severe crime. It could have been a home invasion," Wood said, explaining to the paper that the vehicle Blackmon was driving was not registered to him, nor to his mother's address, giving officers the impression that his entry into her house may have been a home invasion.
Chief Eskridge acknowledged the significance of the incident, telling the paper that "there is nothing more serious than to breach a home without a proper search warrant. We want to make sure that we were in compliance with, not just policy, but the law."
Muskogee authorities have released potentially incendiary footage in the past. In 2015, the quick release of video showing a MPD officer shooting 21-year-old Terence Walker, a black man, was credited by some with helping to diffuse a combustable situation. In it, Walker was shown to be reaching for a gun when he was shot.
According to NewsOn6.com, Smith was hospitalized following the pepper-spraying. Her family is demanding an apology from the department.