Baltimore County Police body camera footage shows how an incident where an officer seeking to arrest a woman for disorderly conduct quickly escalated, ending with police throwing a 76-year-old grandmother to the ground during an arrest at her home earlier this month.
The police department released footage Tuesday from three body-worn cameras, as well as the 911 call and police radio transmissions of the arrest of Rena Mellerson and her granddaughter, Cierra Floyd. The arrest was caught on cellphone video and sparked public outrage. Police Chief Melissa Hyatt called that video footage “unsettling” and a department spokeswoman said criminal and internal affairs investigations are ongoing.
One police body-camera video shows the confrontation between an officer, identified as Cpl. Brennan, and Floyd and Mellerson at the door of Mellerson’s home. Baltimore County typically does not release the first names of officers, citing its contract with the police union.
In the video, Brennan tells Mellerson that Floyd is under arrest for disorderly conduct. As Mellerson opens the door, Floyd is heard telling Mellerson to stop. The grandmother starts to close the door and Brennan grabs the doorknob.
Floyd approaches the door and Brennan pulls out his Taser to aim it at Floyd. As Floyd shuts the door, she also pushes Mellerson outside with the officer. Mellerson then returns to the doorway, opens the door and stands between Brennan and Floyd. Brennan tells Mellerson he doesn’t want to arrest her, too.
Mellerson can be heard in the footage trying to persuade Floyd to go with Brennan. Seconds later, however, the door closes with the women inside. Although Brennan’s foot can’t be seen in the footage, he is heard shouting to the women “my foot is stuck in the door and you’re both going to get [expletive] locked up.”
The video shows Brennan using his pepper spray through the small opening left in the doorway. He also fires his Taser, but misses. He tells dispatch about his pinned foot as he asks for backup. Seconds later, Brennan draws and points his handgun at the door as he orders them to get back.
Eventually, Brennan forces his way inside the home, spraying Floyd with pepper spray because she won’t remove her hands from her pockets. Brennan can be heard coughing from the pepper spray.
Brennan pulls Mellerson outside, and a second officer, identified as “Officer Schmidt," arrives and throws her to the ground — and Brennan tells him to “be easy with her.”
In Schmidt’s video, he tells Mellerson he responded the way he did because he viewed her as "an immediate threat.” Later, Schmidt tells Mellerson “the reason I put you on the ground ma’am is because I saw Taser probes in you,” but Mellerson can be seen disagreeing with his explanation.
In both videos, children can be heard crying “mama” and officers ask if they were hit with pepper spray.
The third video shows what preceded the Gwynn Oak confrontation.
Brennan arrives and asks Floyd whether she was the one who called police, but the body camera footage shows she repeatedly swears at him and expresses frustration with the child causing the disturbance. He tells her to keep “running your mouth” if she wants to be arrested, and Floyd continues to shout about the incident as she walks to her doorway. Brennan tells her she was “becoming a problem” and would be arrested for her disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Brennan’s camera footage ends before Floyd left her home, according to police. Charging documents state Brennan used the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration database to identify Floyd and track her to Mellerson’s home.
Charging documents show Floyd was charged with second-degree assault on law enforcement, failure to obey a lawful order, second-degree assault, resisting and interfering with an arrest, and disorderly conduct. Mellerson was charged with second-degree assault, resisting and interfering with an arrest, and obstructing or hindering a law enforcement officer performing his duties.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. thanked the department for its “transparency." He stressed the county holds its officers “to the highest of standards as they conduct their work.”
"Anytime they do not meet those expectations, we need to hold them accountable,” Olszewski said.
Olszewski, a Democrat, acknowledged “it was difficult to watch” all of the footage a week ago.
“In terms of interactions with the police department, it’s not what I’d expect for residents in Baltimore County,” he said.
County Councilman Julian Jones, a Democrat who represents the district where the incident occurred, called the footage “extremely troubling.”
Jones questioned why the police officer initially went to the home “after the fact.”
“I just don’t think it was in his best interest … or the county’s best interest,” Jones said.
The councilman also said he felt the officer who threw Mellerson to the ground did so without first evaluating the situation.
J. Wyndal Gordon, a Baltimore defense attorney who is representing the family, has said he wants criminal charges to come out of the investigation. He’s called the officer’s actions “sadistic” in light of “a highly questionable arrest” and “highly questionable police conduct.”
Gordon didn’t respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger told The Baltimore Sun in an email that his office doesn’t comment on open cases.
Olszewski and Baltimore County police have said they are working on a new policy for releasing police body camera footage. Olszewski said he doesn’t know if the footage released Tuesday “will be entirely consistent” with the department’s forthcoming policy. He does believe, however, that the “broad outlines” of the policy will likely reflect the manner in which they released footage in this incident.
Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.