Photo of Cop Pepper-Spraying Child Was Taken in Rio

Pause Before You Share - It Might Not Be What It Says

Police Officer Pepper-Spraying Kid
Netlore Archive: Viral image circulating via Facebook and other social media purports to show a police officer pepper-spraying a little girl. Original photo credited to Peter Kirilos, O Globos (Rio de Janeiro)

A friend shares a photo of a police officer using pepper spray on a child, urging that the policeman be punished for his actions. Stop before you share. While your heart may go out to the child and her family and it can certainly incite anger against the policeman, that photo didn't come from any recent incident in the United States. It's an authentic photo from Brazil, taken years ago, and is misrepresented as being from the United States or elsewhere.

  • Description: Viral image
  • Circulating since: March 2011
  • Status: Authentic / Misrepresented

Text example:
As shared on Facebook, Oct. 22, 2011:

Look carefully, this is a photograph of a cop casually macing a child. Please share this ( especially US FB friends and let's get the SOB x

Analysis of the Pepper Spray Photo

Sadly, the photograph is real, though the location where it was taken is often misstated. It's a press photo shot on March 23, 2011, during a public protest in the city of Niterói, Brazil (part of the Metropolitan Region of Rio de Janeiro) by Peter Kirilos of O Globo (The Globe), Rio's largest daily newspaper.

Publication of the image prompted an investigation by the state prosecutor, who filed a complaint in July denouncing the two military police officers involved, Captain Bruno Schorcht and soldier D'Angelo de Matos Pinel, and demanding their immediate suspension for abuse of authority.

Subsequent news reports stated that Captain Schorcht was "punished" for his actions by being transferred to another battalion and promoted to the rank of Major, but according to O Globo columnist Ancelmo Gois, Schorcht's name was "taken off the list" for promotion after the state prosecutor's complaint was filed.

These sort of semi-hoaxes tend to circulate again and again. Although this example circulated in 2011, you may expect to see this photo in the future, purporting to be in a different location and circumstance.

Verify Before You Share

The United States had an outpouring of public concern over police shootings and deaths while in custody. This led to groups such as Black Lives Matter holding marches and demonstrations. Emotions often ran high for people who supported these movements as well as those who supported the officers involved in each incident.

Facebook postings of photos such as the one in this example could further inflame passions on either side. Only photos from a verified source should be shared. While everyone can exercise freedom of speech, you should take responsibility to verify what you are saying is not a hoax.

Where did the photo or video come from? Does what is seen in it match up with the description of the location, season, people, and surroundings? Does it look vaguely familiar, as if you might have seen it before on social media?

A search for the general description of it may turn up a page such as this one, showing you the same photo or video and the real story behind it.

Know before you share.