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Prosecutor drops charges against fifth grader on whom off-duty officer used Taser

Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-09 17:01:25-04

Editor’s note: WCPO previously withheld the girl’s name in order to protect her identity because she was charged with a crime. Now that she is not the subject of a criminal matter, and with the mother’s permission, we are naming the child.

CINCINNATI -- The city of Cincinnati on Wednesday night dropped charges of theft and obstruction of justice filed Monday against a 90-pound, 11-year-old girl whom an off-duty officer stunned with a Taser.

"Tasing an 11-year old who posed no danger to the police is wrong," Mayor John Cranley wrote in a statement. "I'm sorry for the harm to her and her family. This evening I called and asked Prosecutor Deters to drop charges against the girl. I'm happy to report that he did and I thank for him doing so."

According to police, Donesha Gowdy had been shoplifting from a Kroger on Monday when Officer Kevin Brown, who was on security duty, ordered her to stop. She didn't.

The officer fired his Taser as she walked away. One probe struck her at the base of her spine; the other hit between her shoulder blades. Her mother had to roll up the band of her training bra to show the injury -- a small, circular scab -- to reporters Wednesday afternoon.

"If you can't run, then you need to get off the police force," the mother, Donna Gowdy, said. "If you can't handle an 11-year-old child, then you really need to get off the police force. You here to protect these kids."

After the girl was stunned, the officer arrested her and filed the charges before releasing her to her parents. 

Brown is now on restricted duty.

Sgt. Dan Hils, the police union president, said Brown's use of the stun gun on Donesha meets department policy, and speculated that using it may have prevented injuries that could have resulted from a physical struggle. He said the case is being driven by politics.

"I don't think the officer has been treated fairly," Hils said.

Although current Cincinnati Police Department policy permits the use of a Taser on any person between the ages of 7 and 70, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said in the aftermath of the incident he would introduce a motion to change the minimum age to 12. 

A racial disparity

Cincinnati police have used Tasers on children 16 years old or younger at least 14 times since the beginning of 2016. Thirteen of those 14 children are black, according to police records.

Those findings are based on a 9 On Your Side I-Team review of 330 Cincinnati Police Department use of force reports for incidents involving Tasers.

In one incident during May 2017, an officer approached a 13-year-old boy and was going to write him a ticket for jaywalking. The child ran from the officer, who fired a five-second stun gun round into the boy to end the chase. An internal Cincinnati Police Department investigation determined the officer followed the department Taser policy.

On Thursday, the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP released a statement also calling for the Taser policy to "be reviewed expeditiously and that a directive be issued by the Chief immediately which requires all command staff to revisit and instruct officers in their divisions on taser policy and proper use."

"This use of force was inappropriate and unreasonable," the NAACP said in the statement.