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U.S. officer told girl she would be charged with sex abuse

COLUMBUS, Ohio –


A Columbus police officer summoned to a home by a father concerned his 11-year-old daughter was being solicited by an adult man repeatedly asserted that the girl could face charges for sending explicit images of herself.


Body camera footage obtained by The Associated Press showed the Sept. 15 interaction between the father and two officers. The father angrily closed the door after one of the officers told him his daughter could face charges for producing or recording child sexual abuse images despite being a victim.


The parent posted to TikTok a now-viral security video of the conversation, which has generated widespread criticism of the police’s response.


The officers’ conduct is being investigated, as well as any crime that may have been committed against the girl, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said in a statement late Tuesday. She also said the department reached out to apologize to the father.


Police have not released the father’s name, and the AP does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse or domestic violence. He didn’t immediately respond to phone messages or on social media from the AP on Wednesday seeking comment.


WHAT OFFICERS SAID


Both the security video and the audio from the redacted body camera footage show the officers talking with the father outside his home after midnight.


He tells the officers his daughter is already asleep, and that he had hoped they could help talk to her about the seriousness of the situation. The female officer quickly tells him that his daughter could be charged with creating sexually explicit content.


The father protests and says that she is a child who was manipulated by an adult, according to the police report and the father’s TikTok video. The officer asks him if she was taking pictures, and the father ends the conversation.


In audio of the body camera footage, the female officer can be heard asserting again as she walks away from the house, “She’s taking pictures of herself naked. She’s creating child porn.”


In a preliminary incident report, the officer lists the possible charge under investigation as “pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor” for creating or producing material, and cites a portion of the Ohio law that prohibits the creation, recording or publishing of child sexual abuse materials. A separate portion of the law that wasn’t cited prohibits knowingly soliciting, receiving, purchasing or possessing that material.


In a statement Tuesday, the police chief repeatedly referred to the 11-year-old as the victim of a crime. She said that the officers’ conduct did not live up to her expectations that officers “treat every victim of crime with compassion, decency and dignity.”


WHAT RECORDS SHOW


The AP also obtained the audio from the father’s police call and a dispatch log with notes called in from the responding officers.


According to the dispatch log, the father called 911 around 6:50 p.m. on Sept. 14, and was told they would send a female officer. He called again at about 7:50 p.m. to say the response was taking too long. Officers showed up at the family’s home more than five hours later, after midnight on Sept. 15.


Video footage shows the father informing the officers his daughter is asleep and saying he wasn’t sure what they could do.


The police report identifies the officers as Kelsie Schneider and Brian Weiner. A number listed for Schneider went straight to voicemail. Weiner answered a call but asked a reporter not to contact him.


The notes from officers in the log and in the incident report place blame on the father for ending the conversation before they could discuss possible outcomes, saying he became “immediately upset.”


REMAINING QUESTIONS


Despite the police chief’s statement referring to the child as a victim, Columbus police have not responded to questions about whether she could still face charges.


A police spokesperson has also not answered whether any other children have faced charges in Columbus under Ohio’s laws about child sexual abuse material. It was unclear whether the department has a policy regarding charging minors with those crimes.


Police said the actions of the officers were referred to the Inspector General’s office and are under review.


One of the responding officers wrote in the incident report that she had contacted detectives in the sexual assault section, citing “the severity of the crime and the lack of cooperation” and had been advised to “take a miscellaneous incident report.” It was unclear why an officer from the sexual assault section or child exploitation division did not respond to the call as well as why the response was so delayed.


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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.



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