FORT PIERCE – A 15-year-old girl is facing a felony battery charge from a curfew violation incident in which a city police officer struck and pepper sprayed her after she bit him — actions shown in a police videotape released Thursday. Fort Pierce Police Chief Sean Baldwin said he stands by how Officer Dan Gilroy handled the July arrest.
“It is shocking to see that a police officer has had to use that level of force against a child,” Baldwin said Thursday night. “But … my opinion is he responded appropriately and in accordance with our policies. “I do not expect my officers to stand there and allow a child or an adult to bite them,” he added.
Gilroy was trying to handcuff Shelwanda Riley, 15, of the 300 block of South 25th Street, for breaking the city’s curfew when she became increasingly violent and bit him, according to the police report. Gilroy dragged the girl to the front of his car, dodging her kicks and swings and activating his in-car video camera to record the remainder of the encounter, his report said.
At one point, she “clamped down on my hand/wrist and I felt immediate pain shot up my arm,” the officer wrote. “The pain was shocking, and I thought the suspect was going to extract a large piece of flesh from my hand.” Riley was in court Thursday and had her case scheduled to go to trial Nov. 28. She faces a felony charge of battery on a law-enforcement officer and misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer or obstructing justice without violence.
Last week, Baldwin received a call from the Public Defender’s Office expressing concerns the girl’s family had about the video recording of the arrest. Baldwin asked the Public Defender’s Office to have Riley’s family contact him, but he said he hasn’t heard from them. Gilroy, who was wearing cut-resistant gloves that protected him from serious injury, struck the 100-pound girl in response to the bite, the report said.
“(She) left a large amount of saliva on my wrist as she took a full bite,” the officer wrote. “My wrist was red and slightly bruised, but there was no broken skin.” Gilroy was responding to a 911 call about a suspicious couple walking the area of 24th Street and Boston Avenue with full garbage bags, when he met up with Riley at about 1:50 a.m. She was carrying a bag of what appeared to be new clothing, the officer reported. Photos provided by the Fort Pierce Police Department show scars on Riley’s wrist that Baldwin says “happens when people that are handcuffed resist by pulling away. “They actually get scrapes, abrasions on the wrist,” he said.
To make a complaint on how this matter was handled please contact www.fppd.org or (772) 461-3820.