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California police defend using spit mask on 12-year-old boy

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Police on Wednesday defended the use of a clear mesh “spit mask” on a fight-to 12-year-old boy as angry bystanders video the tense meeting in Sacramento while the make of the objection that the boy was held.

Agents “on the correct use of a spit mask to protect himself and defuse the situation,” Police chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement. “I am thankful that … no one was injured during this encounter.”

The police also released officer body camera video in which the boy struggles while officers work to calm him down. He repeatedly curses and screams that he can’t breathe after he was handcuffed and placed face down on the ground, police and pull the mask over his head.

“Hey, hey, you need to calm down, dude. Rest, OK?” the officer answers.

The police said that they saw the boy running away from a security guard and helped to keep the youth April 28. He was later released to his mother and cited for battery against a police officer and resisting officers.

Sacramento lawyer Mark T. Harris said that he is considering a lawsuit on behalf of the youth and his mother against the city, the guard, and an employee of a nearby restaurant who he said also helped to hold the boy.

Harris at the head of the Sacramento office of a national civil rights law firm that also represents the family of Stephon Clark. Clark was an unarmed 22-year-old vandalism suspect who was killed by Sacramento police a year ago, leading to national protests.

The 12-year-old boy was attending a neighborhood carnival with an adult and his older sister when he was confronted with the security guard, Harris said.

“To a certain extent, the police were the victims of this ourselves,” he said. “They didn’t know what was going on.”

The problem was the reaction of the police, he said: “They directly use violence to try to hold of the young man, it went very quickly to the hands around the neck, the hands to the arm.”

Harris says that it is not clear that the boy actually spit, but said that even if he did, there was no reason to believe that it is a health hazard. In addition, he said that the police need the mask is removed after the mother of the boy came and asked to be removed, because her son has respiratory problems.

“The officer must be de-escalating hostilities,” Harris said. Instead, the incident eventually attracted eight officers, together with the security guard and restaurant employee,” all this for a 12-year-old, that in the worst case, was accused of asking people for money, what he did not do.”

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