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Police Violence in a MD Preschool, Family Says

BALTIMORE (CN) - A police officer put a child in a chokehold at the preschool graduation of her twin nieces and pepper-sprayed the twins' mother, the family claims in court.

The March 16 complaint in circuit court by Amanda Scott and her minor sister Donnesha Bennett comes in the wake of reports by the Baltimore Sun that excessive-force claims against the city's police officers has resulted in more than $5 million in payments made to plaintiffs and another $5.8 million in defense fees.

Scott and Bennett say their nightmare began at what should have been a celebratory occasion: the June 5, 2013, preschool graduation of Scott's twin girls at the Inner Harbor East Academy.

At a reception in the school cafeteria after the ceremony, Scott says she observed

Bennett, her minor sister, having a heated conversation with the school principal and Cpl. Timothy Kelly, an officer with the Baltimore City School Police Department.

Though Scott and Bennett allegedly heeded the principal's advice to leave, Scott says Kelly grabbed her arm.

The complaint alleges that Scott then informed Kelly that she was pregnant and having trouble breathing.

Instead of releasing her, however, Kelly then "escalated the physical encounter without provocation," the complaint continues.

"Kelly struck plaintiff Scott about the head and face with closed fists, deployed pepper spray aimed at her face, and subsequently struck her with the pepper spray can."

When Bennett tried to stop the altercation, Kelly placed her in a choke hold, according to the complaint.

Both Scott and Bennett say they had not provoked the attack and were not violent toward Kelly before the physical confrontation.

After Kelly released Bennett, she and Scott left the building, according to the complaint. Kelly then allegedly pursued them outside, threw Scott to the ground and held her there with his knees.

Scott and Bennett say they were both then placed under arrest.

Though Scott was charged with second-degree assault, assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing, she says the charges "were placed on the 'stet docket.'"

Bennett was charged as a juvenile but not formally prosecuted, according to the complaint.

Scott and Bennett want damages from Kelly and the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, alleging battery, false arrest, negligence and other claims.

They are represented by Anton Iamele of Iamele & Iamele.

Attorneys for both parties did not return calls seeking comment.

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