Video Appears to Show Illinois Police Officer Pepper-Spraying Handcuffed Teens

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Video appears to show an officer macing two handcuffed teens in Alton, Illinois. (Credit: Alton Police)

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A video showing a police officer in Illinois appearing to use pepper-spray on two teens in handcuffs at police headquarters in Alton, a city about 25 miles north of St. Louis, has prompted a state investigation.

The video, dated Jan. 26, 2015, shows two teens sitting in a holding area at the Alton Police Department. It was aired Tuesday by KMOV, a television station in St. Louis.

An officer walks in, says something, and then raises what appears to be a can of pepper spray and sprays both teens.

One of the teens then twitches and shakes for several minutes.

"It was infuriating to me to see an officer coming in and spraying one of these kids, who was handcuffed," said James Gray, president of the Alton NAACP.

The officer was identified as Vince Warlick by the local newspaper, the Alton Telegraph.

Gray showed the video to KMOV after receiving it in the mail. Gray said he does not like the way Alton police Chief Jason Simmons is running the department. Simmons' future will soon be decided by the Alton Board of Aldermen, who will choose whether to re-appoint him.

"He's up for re-appointment, but I do not think he should be reappointed. He has to know about this and, if that happened, how many more things happened that they haven't sent to me?" Gray said.

Alton is less than 15 miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was fatally shot by police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014, prompting waves of protest and riots. Since that time, the use of violence by police has been in the spotlight and has been targeted by those calling for reform.

Simmons said the timing of the video's release to the media was suspect. The chief was slated Wednesday to go before the local Board of Alderman, which was weighing his reappointment.

The city's mayor told KMOV he stood by Simmons.

The chief has known about the incident since March, when a high-ranking officer told him what took place, he said. Simmons said it then took two months for officers to write a report on the incident, which he said he received May 6.

"Certainly, it raises a red flag and it appears to be a very serious issue. However, that issue will be thoroughly investigated by our internal affairs division and everything will be looked over before any type of discipline will be issued," Simmons said.

Simmons told KMOV he is upset that his officers were slow in reporting the incident to him.

He believes the delay may be due to the fact that many officers do not like some of the reforms he has put in place, and are trying to find a way to oust him from his post.

A spokeswoman for the Police Department released a statement late Wednesday stating that the video was made public before the ongoing investigation was completed, and so the results of that investigation were not yet available, the Telegraph reported. The video would not be released by the Police Department because it shows juveniles, according to the statement.

"Chief Simmons said the investigation, including an attempt to determine why the final reports were not received until May 6, 2015, will be completed in consultation with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office," the statement concluded.

The video was turned over to Illinois State Police by the State's Attorney's Office, KMOV reported.

Illinois State Police will recommend any criminal charges to the county state's attorney, if appropriate, a spokeswoman for the office told the Telegraph.

A version of this story was originally published by KMOV in St. Louis, and was distributed by the CNN Wire. KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this story.

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