The officer was working a security detail at the Kroger store Aug. 6 when the girl, identified by police as Donesha Gowdy, and two other girls were suspected of shoplifting $53.81 worth of snacks and infant clothing. Brown, who was alerted to the alleged theft by an employee, asked Donesha to stop and show him her receipt for what she was carrying, but the girl ignored him and kept walking out of the store.
He followed her outside and, after he asked again for her receipt and tried to grab her arm, Donesha began to run. Without further warning, Brown fired his Taser at her from behind, the internal review found.
“One Taser barb struck Ms. Gowdy in the center of the back, while the other struck Ms. Gowdy slightly below the waist,” the review stated. “The Taser immobilized Ms. Gowdy and cycled for five seconds.”
She fell to the pavement, suffering a small abrasion to her forearm in the fall. Brown helped her up, handcuffed her and took her back inside.
One of Brown’s violations of policy stemmed from the fact that he did not warn Donesha that he was going to fire the Taser. The review stated that he acknowledged to investigators that departmental policy and training requires the warning “absent exigent circumstances.”
Another violation dealt with the timing of his use of the body camera. Brown waited to activate the camera until about five minutes after he was told that the girl was suspected of shoplifting.
The camera was also activated after Brown deployed his Taser, the police review found.
Internal investigators also found that the crime the girl was suspected of did not warrant the force Brown used to stop her. Brown told the detectives that he thought using the Taser would allow him to detain Donesha and find the other two girls, the review stated.
He told them that he decided to stop the on-foot pursuit to prevent the girl from being struck by a vehicle further into the parking lot. He also said he believed it was his duty to stop her and that Kroger managers, who did not provide him with a specific policy on handling theft suspects, “would be disappointed if he allowed a theft suspect to successfully flee,” the review said.
Brown acknowledged that he would have eventually caught Donesha if the pursuit had continued. He also acknowledged that the girl did not appear to be a threat to him or others.
Brown’s body camera footage shows Donesha, who is 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 90 pounds, wincing as firefighters removed the Taser’s barbs from her body. The officer can be heard lecturing her after she was taken into custody.
“Sweetheart, the last thing I want to do is tase you like that,” Brown says. “When I say stop, you stop. You know you’re caught. Just stop.
“That hurt my heart to do that to you.”
WHIO-TV reported Donesha was initially charged with theft and obstruction, but the charges were later dropped.
Cincinnati police Chief Eliot Isaac told the city’s law and public safety committee at a recent meeting that he believes the department’s use-of-force policy is a strong one, but that there may be areas where officials can “tweak” it.
Brown now faces a predisciplinary hearing, WHIO reported.