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Video shows Wellston officer pepper spraying handcuffed woman

6:06 PM, Jul 9, 2013   |    comments
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By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

WELLSTON, Mo. (KSDK) - What may appear to be a case of police brutality, has turned into a power struggle between the mayor of Wellston and the city's police chief.

The video shows Stephanie Douglas handcuffed and yelling at Officer Michael Weaver from the moment he walked in the room. He arrested her April 5 for resisting arrest and peace disturbance.

What the video doesn't show, according to Weaver, is Douglas spitting at him and while there is no audio, Weaver says he repeatedly warned her to calm down or he'll be forced to spray her with mace.

Douglas insists she was the victim of police brutality.

"I must have said something he didn't like. He stood up and maced me all in my face," said Douglas.

Reporter: "Did you ever spit at him?"

"No," she said.

Reporter: "When you stood up?"

"I couldn't even stand up. They had my ankles shacked to the stool," said Douglas.

Reporter: "But it looked you stood up."

"No, I was just moving; I didn't stand up at all," said Douglas.

The video shows she did stand up. Meanwhile, Officer Weaver insists his actions were justified. He alleged Douglas was combative and spit on him from the time he arrested her outside her apartment to the time she was in booking.

"That was after she had spit on me. She had spit on me, then sat down and kept mouthing off," he said.

After Police Chief G.T. Walker investigated, he suspended Officer Weaver for three days without pay. Weaver appealed and the city council reversed his suspension.

And that is where it gets strange. It seems the mayor, Linda Whitfield, won't let the chief have access to his own interrogation video.

Reporter: "Do you know of any police department in America where police don't have access to their own interrogation video?"

"I've been in the police profession for 43 years and worked with five different departments and I've never seen anything operated in that manner before," said Chief Walker.

The chief also says the mayor won't fund needed police equipment. He says he's repeatedly asked the mayor for money to pay for bullet-proof vests. She has denied funding, so he went to the highway patrol and got used vests. He has to sign a waiver saying he understands the used vests won't necessarily stop a bullet.

When the I-Team went to City Hall we were told the mayor wasn't there and someone put the blinds down to block our camera from seeing who was inside.

Mayor Whitfield did not want to do an on camera interview. But she said she did not know anything about having control of the police video tapes or the issues surrounding bullet proof vests. She did say she was embarrassed and heartbroken by the mace incident and is calling an emergency meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Wellston City Hall.

So what do you think? Was this a case of police abuse, or a case of a citizen abusing police?

Do you have a story Leisa should investigate and possibly expose? Contact her by email, Twitter, or phone at 314-444-5295. We are always looking for your tips and feedback.

KSDK

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