Newly released police bodycam footage from last fall shows a Tulsa police officer taunting an African-American senior citizen who reportedly was suffering through a mental health crisis. The female cop can be seen telling her colleagues “this is going to be fun” before the violent engagement.
Now the woman who was arrested has secured a legal team to press claims of police brutality.
Officer Ronni Carrocia, a female cop in the Tulsa Police Department, was prominently featured in a 6-minute edited version of a 90-minute video from a colleague’s body camera footage put out by a city council member.
In the clip, she is seen mocking LaDonna June Paris, a mentally ill 70-year-old Black woman who’d locked herself in a bathroom while apparently experiencing a manic episode associated with mental illness.
While the video has caused public outrage, the department says their officer did not sway from the force’s policy on handling situations like this, though her demeanor can “be received as unprofessional.”
The law firm representing Paris revealed the great-grandmother and seminary student was “was taunted, harassed and antagonized by Tulsa Police Department officers before they brutalized her while placing her under arrest for behavioral manifestations of a mental health disorder in October 2021.”
Solomon-Simmons Law further states: “The TPD officers involved were fully aware that Ms. Paris was having a bipolar manic episode, yet they still viciously provoked and attacked Ms. Paris while laughing off her disability as if it were a joke.”
According to a police report of the arrest, on Oct. 25, 2021, the city’s Community Response Team was initially called by an emergency medical service worker to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore building, located on 1234 S. Norwood, to assist in rescuing Paris, a bipolar senior in the community who had locked herself in the bathroom at the property. They were not available so Carrocia and her colleagues, who were 15 minutes away, answered the call.
By the time 911 was called, the woman had been in the bathroom for four hours, leaving her dog locked in a U-Haul truck, the vehicle she arrived in.
In the video, the EMS worker references Paris to the officer and says, “We couldn’t make her do anything, so we called you guys for assistance, and then she just took off.”
When Carrocia goes over to the restroom door to address Paris, she is heard threatening the woman with a Taser, saying, “Do you want to get Tased?”
Paris, who is still shut up in the bathroom, pleadingly responds to the officer, “Don’t do it” and asks, “Why are you doing this?”
The cop then rattles and bangs on the door causing Paris to say, “Get away from me, get away, get away.”
Hearing the woman’s cry doesn’t change Carrocia’s approach in how she decided to get the woman to come out. Instead, she laughs and continues with her course of action and says to another officer, “I love my job.”
Paris can later be heard exclaiming, “The cops are trying to kill me here.”
A third officer is called in for assistance, and Carrocia states she hopes it is a specific officer because, she says, “I really like the way he works. He is going to pound the door open and [pepper] spray her.”
When the cop arrives, he breaks the door down with his foot and Carrocia jumps back. The video then shows him tackling Paris to the floor.
The officers finally get the woman off the floor and her face appears to have a gash on one side. One of the cops comments that someone has to clean up the blood left by her injury.
The footage ends with Paris being arrested. As she is being taken away, a voice attributed to Carrocia is heard quipping, “If you are going to play stupid games, you are going to win stupid prizes.”
Three days later, on Thursday, Oct. 28, she was charged with attempted arson, assault, and battery upon a police officer, resisting an officer, trespassing, and cruelty to animals.
According to the Tulsa World, Paris was held in the Tulsa County Jail for almost a month, only being released when a judge, citing the woman’s mental status, dismissed all of the charges on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
TPD’s Captain Richard Meulenberg released a statement for the media through his Communication Unit on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, about the incident after the video was made public.
The police’s account of the incident detailed how Paris refused to leave the bathroom, asked for the building’s manager, and once that person was secured refused to believe it was actually here. It later reported she was attempting to “spray an aerosol can and had a lighter.” Afraid she might start a fire, the officers called for backup.
“One officer told Paris to open the door and come out now, when Paris did not open the door, she activated her Taser to make an arc sound hoping that auditory stimulus would prompt Paris to open the door,” the report stated.
The report does not deny the third officer was able to get the door open and in the process of detaining Paris caused her to “sustain a minor injury to her face.”
Meulenberg mentioned that while the “banter” between the officers can be “received as unprofessional and has been addressed,” “the call was handled within the policies of the Tulsa Police Department.”
The Tulsa Police Department released five perspectives of the incident from the officers’ bodycams to support its defense of the arrest.
Paris’ attorneys say they are “disgusted by this outrageous behavior caught on video and the fact that the Tulsa Police Department has attempted to shift the blame for the incident onto the victim of a mental health episode and police brutality.”
The legal team continued, “We are even more troubled by the Tulsa Police Department’s frequent practice of ignoring and even outright condoning their officers’ discriminatory treatment and humiliation of violence toward people who suffer from mental health disorders, especially African-Americans.”
A press conference is being planned and Paris is expected to publicly share her testimony about the incident.
The firm says it looks “forward to doing everything in our power to hold the officers involved in the attack and the Tulsa Police Department accountable for their shameful and unlawful, discriminatory actions, and to seek justice for Ms. Paris.”