Krystal Dixon dropped off her kids and nieces and nephews at the Fairfield, Ohio, pool just as she’d done many times before. Not a half-hour later, the family was being rushed to the hospital after a violent altercation with local police.
The incident started so small. When one child didn’t have swimming trunks, staff demanded the family leave.
Even though Dixon, pregnant and 33, said she had a swimsuit for the child, workers at the Fairfield Aquatic Center—about 25 miles north of Cincinnati—said it was too late.
What was a minor breach of pool rules then descended into chaos: A white officer using pepper spray on black teenage girls, and one 12-year-old—Dixon’s niece—being slammed against a cop car. Her family says she has a fractured jaw and broken ribs.
Two adults were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A 12-year-old girl was charged with assault and resisting arrest, while a 15-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The two sides paint a different picture of what happened. The family is accusing the cops of using excessive force in the incident. The police say they were just doing their jobs—and besides, the 12-year-old attacked them. But a 911 call by a pool employee reveals concerns over race.
“Everything’s going crazy and they’re videotaping, trying to make it look like a racist thing and it’s not at all,” the caller said. “They were breaking our policy and we told them they couldn’t be here anymore and it’s really scary and I don’t feel safe.”
On Tuesday, Dixon’s allies released shocking videos of the June 9 incident and claimed cops used excessive force because of racism. Bishop Bobby Hilton, a Cincinnati pastor who belongs to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, came forward to present photos of the injured kids.
“They’re saying a 12-year-old was assaulting somebody and resisting being arrested,” Hilton told The Daily Beast. “Please tell me, where is she assaulting somebody? Why did the officer have to grab her by the neck and push her against the car? It’s just not right.”
Clyde Bennett, an attorney for Dixon, added: “I could surmise or opine on why [pool staff] wanted them out. They said they’re not appropriately dressed. I’m not convinced that’s why they wanted them out of the pool.”
“There’s a lot of people in Cincinnati who believe they wanted them out … because they were black,” Bennett added.
Dixon’s family says it’s the latest example of police using excessive force against black teens. Days before, an officer was captured on video pulling a gun at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, and slamming a black girl to the ground. The cop resigned and his attorney said “he was not targeting minorities.”
A video of the Fairfield melee wasn’t nearly as shocking as the McKinney footage. But the altercation was serious. After the Fairfield incident, the six-months-pregnant Dixon was rushed to the hospital for evaluation with four other relatives—including the 12-year-old with fractured bones. (The Daily Beast is not naming her, or any other juvenile, from this incident.) Another girl had to get her eyes rinsed out. Dixon was not injured, but she’s facing disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.
“Krystal Dixon was behaving in a lawful manner,” Bennett told The Daily Beast. “When you’re not doing anything illegal or unlawful you should not be subject to arrest.”
“You’ve got a six-months pregnant woman trying to get her kids out of the pool, and before she could do that she was arrested,” he added.
Dixon said she brought eight children to the pool at about 3 p.m. and left to pick up her sister, who also planned to spend the day there. One of her nephews didn’t have swimming trunks on and was told to leave.
Three kids went into the pool, but the others called Dixon, who said she’d be back in 10 minutes with the missing swimsuit. When she arrived, staff told her the kid without the trunks broke the rules by swimming in his clothes.
Staff then told her the teens still had to leave because of how they behaved when workers informed them of the rules breach.
The mom decided to get the other kids and go. That’s when, according to Dixon, a park ranger followed her. When the teens came over to see what’s going on, the ranger took out handcuffs.
The ranger said they’d be arrested if they didn’t leave. He asks for Dixon’s ID, which she doesn’t have on her, then grabs her arm. The children ask the officer to let Dixon go, and the scene escalates.
The footage shows a group of officers trying to apprehend several teenagers at the scene. A random white civilian is pictured pushing up against a black teen in handcuffs. One teen girl is crying on the ground after being pepper sprayed. Another girl is crying as a cop grabs the back of her neck and pushes her into a squad car.
The family claims they didn’t do anything wrong. Police provide a vastly different account.
“They refused to leave and became even more verbally aggressive and belligerent,” Fairfield police officer Doug Day told The Daily Beast.
When the park ranger put his hand on Dixon, the children and Dixon’s sister “started jumping on the park ranger’s back,” Day said, adding that the injured 12-year-old was striking and pushing one of the officers.
Police say they weren’t informed of any injuries until after Tuesday’s press conference and denied the family’s claims of excessive force.
“Our officers used great restraint,” Day said. “At one point, one of our officers felt his gun was being taken away from him. The only weapon he used was the OC spray, to get someone off the back of the officer.”
“We completely support our officers in what they did,” the cop added.
Day said witnesses have been supportive of the police and have come forward to share their own videos of the incident.
“The U.S. is great because you can say anything you want and you’re protected,” Day told The Daily Beast. “But the reality is there doesn’t have to be any factual basis on what you say. They can look at the video and say all the ways we use excessive force. And we can point out all the ways we didn’t.”