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Toddler tear gassed; photo goes viral

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) -- A photo that was posted to social media Saturday night showing people helping a three year old who'd been caught in some tear gas has been shared more than 30,000 times.

We spoke with the woman in the photo as well as the child's mother for this exclusive story.

"I was trying to go home and I was gassed out of my vehicle," says mother Mechell Hensler.

Hensler says her three-year-old daughter Gracie is doing better, a day after being hit with tear gas.

She says she wasn't part of the protest, but was driving to her home south of downtown when they were caught in the crossfire.

The girl's mother says she wasn't part of the protest, but was driving to her home south of downtown when they were caught in the crossfire.

Jessica Farlow says she lives near downtown and was at the protests Saturday night equipped with a bag full of first aid.

"I ran over immediately to help and the child's face and their entire body was red with this capsaicin or pepper spray," she says.

A bystander posted a photo of the aftermath, which has been shared nearly 40,000 times.

You can see Jessica trying to spray a soothing mixture on Gracie to stop the burning.

"We spent about 10 minutes dousing her in Maalox and water and milk, taking her clothes off, treating her," Farlow says.

But the worst was yet to come.

"I said she's only three, I'm not even here for the protest. We got gassed out of our vehicle. And he dead looked at my daughter and through the cannister in front of her, and it exploded in front of her face," Hensler says.

"The hard part for me was right when the second canister came. I had given her a cough drop, and she had looked at me and said thank you for the candy and she was smiling again. And I felt like we had done what we came to do. She was smiling, she wasn't scared. And then the second canister exploded. And all over again, everything we had just worked for was in her lungs and on her body, and she was naked because we had already taken her clothes off," Farlow says.

Farlow says she's still shaken by what the girl went through.

"When I showered last night and it burned, I imagined those parents showering that child off and trying to explain to them why her skin is on fire. And I thought of my own babies, and I thought about how many of the other kids down here didn't have somebody to help them," she says.

Gracie's mother tells us that her daughter used to love police officers, but when she saw one Sunday morning she was so scared, she cried.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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