Arsenal Tech mom considers legal action after daughter is taken to the emergency room

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - An Arsenal Tech student was taken to the hospital after fighting broke out across campus last Thursday.

Now, the student's mother is considering legal action.

Habriya Cheatham, says she had an asthma attack, brought on by pepper spray used by officers.

The freshman says she was caught in the crossfire between students and resource officers trying to control the situation.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon after fighting that began in the cafeteria sprawled across campus.

"I thought it was crazy. I didn't know what was going on. Everybody was fighting," say Cheatham. "It was one fight here, and a fight that way, a fight over by the fountain."

IMPD says resource officers used pepper spray to control the crowds. They say they attempted to clear the area until the fighting deescalated.

"If you were standing in a large group you got maced," Cheatham recalls. "I got maced at least 4 times, and I didn't do anything."

The next moment she describes as the walls closing in.

"I was like I need help I can't breathe. They was like, we don't care you need to get up against the wall."

In a panic she called her mom.

“I hear her like gasping for breath," says Habriya's mom, Monique Fowler. "The next thing I know I hear her phone either hit the floor or wherever she was and everybody around her start screaming.”

Fowler continued to call back, but the next voice she heard wasn't her daughter. It was someone from IMPD. They told Fowler that Habriya had an apparent asthma attack.

Frustrated, Habriya's mother said, "She’s only been telling you for the last 20 minutes that she couldn’t breathe.”

Cheatham then recalls her time at the hospital, "They gave me some medicine to help my lungs because they said from the mace it bruised my lungs, and my throat was swollen."

“I cried when I walked in the door," says Fowler. "Normally with her asthma it’s the weather. This wasn’t the weather. This was something that was traumatic.”

Habriya's mother says she was never notified by Arsenal Tech. Almost a week later she says she is still looking for answers.

“If the school had called me I would feel better, but to this day they haven’t called me and given me an explanation for nothing.” She went on to say, “I would’ve known nothing if my daughter didn’t call me herself.”

Fowler says she left a voicemail with the school's principal, but when she spoke to Fox 59 on Tuesday she said she did not hear back.

Indianapolis Public Schools released a statement addressing the situation on Wednesday night.

“Indianapolis Public Schools acknowledges Ms. Fowler’s frustrations as a result of this unfortunate incident. Arsenal Tech’s staff observed the student in distress and tended to her immediately addressing her needs until paramedics arrived. Principal Corye Franklin did make efforts to contact Ms. Fowler last Thursday. He has since talked to her, listened to her concerns and they are working together to address them. As always, the safety and security of our students is our top priority.”

The district also addressed the use of pepper spray saying:

“The Indianapolis Public Schools Police Department is fully trained on the use and procedures for dispersing Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), or pepper spray. During the incidents at Arsenal Tech last week, IPS officers used the spray primarily to maintain safety. It was paramount to protect students, quickly diffuse the situation and prevent further incidents.”


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