“I cried when I saw my son. I couldn’t believe my own eyes.”
That was the reaction of 39-year-old Abdulmohsen Homoud, a Belgian resident visiting family in Copenhagen, after a police officer peppersprayed his 15-month-old son following a routine traffic stop.
According to eyewitness accounts, a police officer, described by Ekstra Bladet tabloid as “bald and heavily tattooed”, sprayed Homoud, his son and several other people after Homoud attempted to enter the youth sports club he was visiting in order to drop off his son.
According to Ekstra Bladet, Homoud was a passenger in his own vehicle when the driver – Homoud’s brother – went the wrong way on a one-way street. Police followed the car to a scout and karate club in the Nørrebro district. The driver of the car admitted he was at fault and said he would pay the fine. Homoud then attempted to enter the club to drop off his son, who was cold, to another brother so that he could produce his papers for the police officers.
Homoud, who does not speak Danish, attempted to explain the situation to the officer, but the officer refused to let him enter the club. The officer grabbed Homoud’s shirt and Homoud then raised his voice, but according to witnesses did not make any threatening gesture. After a short argument, the officer took out his pepperspray and sprayed Homoud in the face, as well as the surrounding area. The spray got in the face of the 15-month-old boy, who had since been handed to his uncle, as well as the uncle and two affiliates of the club.
During the incident there were a handful of other children in the club, which was honoured by Crown Princess Mary in 2009 for its integration work. According to Marianne Nielsen, a volunteer, the children were so scared of the police that they hid in a back room.
“The officers likely felt under pressure because they were faced with three large, grown men,” Nielsen told Ekstra Bladet. “But [Homoud and his brothers] didn’t do anything. It’s like Chicago here in Nørrebro, where the police are just scared. In some ways I can understand it.”
Two additional police vehicles and an ambulance then arrived, helping Homoud and his son to rinse their eyes. According to Nielsen, the newly-arrived police officers were helpful and apologised for their colleague’s behaviour.
In a video shot by one of Homoud’s brothers, the officer who peppersprayed the young child appeared to be outside the club smiling over the incident, which incensed the amateur cameraman.
Homoud said that all of his son’s clothing had to be changed because of the pepperspray’s lingering effects. While his son slept on a nearby couch, he told Ekstra Bladet that four hours after being sprayed in the face, he still had a headache and irritated eyes.
Homoud was not charged with any infraction and the club was forced to cancel a dinner for 50 children, resulting in a 5,000 kroner loss.