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Mother of pepper-sprayed 9-year-old files notice of claim against the City of Rochester


Elba Pope, the mother of  the  9-year-old who was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by Rochester city police last Friday, has filed a notice of claim in response to the incident.

Pope told WXXI News her daughter is doing better, but she’s still distraught about the incident last week, in which police responded to a report of family trouble and found the child yelling for her dad as she walked outside her house in the bitter cold.

When officers had difficulty in getting her to go into a patrol car so they could call for an ambulance, they handcuffed the girl, and then pepper-sprayed her.

Pope said that her daughter feels guilty about the whole situation.

“She feels like she got me in trouble, she’s so apologetic and so emotional and I explained to her every step of the way, you’re not in trouble, you’re good,” Pope said.

The notice of claim is the first step in a lawsuit against the city. One reason she filed the claim, she explained, is to cause change in the police system.

"A change in how they respond to mental health, a change in how you treat minors, a kid, a 9-year-old," Pope said. "Under any circumstances, it’s not O.K. to pepper spray a 9-year-old that’s already detained inside of the car."

Pope’s attorney, Lorenzo Napolitano, is not surprised this incident has garnered worldwide attention.

"When you see this happen and you see her not getting the help she needs, it’s a gut punch, to be honest with you," Napolitano said. "It just really pulls on your heart strings to hear that, and I think we’re all ingrained to respond to a child and recognize when a child, an innocent person is in distress."

Napolitano said the notice of claim seeks damages for negligence, violations of constitutional rights, assault, battery, excessive force, and infliction of emotional distress.

A statement from City Hall said Mayor Lovely Warren continues to be outraged by what occurred on Friday and is working to reform the police department and ensure accountability. The statement said Warren "continues to be outraged by what occurred" and remains concerned that the child involved and her family get the support they need.

Randy Gorbman is the news director at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at