The Chicago Police Department is defending the behavior of officers who falsely arrested a 10-year-old black child last Friday because he “fit the description” of a wanted suspect.
Fourth-grader Michael Thomas Jr. was minding his own business and playing in his own neighborhood when police swooped in to arrest him. Thomas was then shoved against the hood of a squad car and handcuffed in front of his grandmother’s home. After that, police began to question him about a gun–a gun he didn’t have.
He says he repeatedly told police they had the wrong person as he was being arrested, but the Chicago cops didn’t seem to care. Thomas was so scared by the arrest and resulting interrogation that he began to cry and eventually wet his pants. In comments to WMAQ-TV 5 after the harrowing incident, Thomas said:
They put me in handcuffs. I was scared and I was crying and that’s when they told me I had escaped from juvenile and I had a gun. I said I didn’t escape from juvenile and I don’t have a gun.
In the video, outraged members of the community can be heard off-camera criticizing the boy’s treatment by two white officers. A woman shouts, “That’s our kid!” Thomas’s uncle disputes the credibility of the allegation that his nephew had a gun in his possession. He says, “They’re telling them that someone called them saying that there is a 12-year-old black kid on a bike with all blue on had a gun. There was about five little black boys with all blue on.”
Another woman can be heard saying, “Unbelievable. Unbelievable he’s a kid. They’re making him pee on his self and all of that. He’s scared!” When the officers attempt to justify the arrest by claiming that Thomas ran from them, a woman explodes, referencing police officers’ killing of innocent black people at disproportionate rates.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson dismissed the furor and stood by his officer. At a press conference with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Johnson said the CPD received a call about a black male with a gun in the area and the the cops in question “followed all of the rules and protocols” while handcuffing the traumatized 10-year-old. Johnson continued:
Keep in mind, this is difficult for an officer to tell right off the bat if you’re 10-years-old, 12-years-old, 14…So, they handcuffed the kid for safety reasons because he did match that description…So, I’m not concerned about that at all.
The boy’s mother, Starr Ramsey, doesn’t think that’s enough. In comments to WMAQ-TV 5 she said, “They need to apologize. He’s gonna be scarred for the rest of his life now. Anything can happen. We might need him to call the police. And he’s gonna be too afraid to even call.”
While the boy’s identity was almost immediately made public, the officers involved remain a mystery. Law&Crime reached out to the Chicago Police Department and WMAQ-TV for additional information as to why. The CPD declined to comment. One source with NBC said this may have to do with legal issues or “clearance” from the CPD, but couldn’t be sure.
[image via screengrab/WMAQ-TV 5]