Authorities say a boy who was handcuffed by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC was “totally innocent” of armed robbery. The incident was recorded and has caused outrage among people who say the boy should not have been placed in handcuffs in the first place.
The 10-year-old, who was not identified by authorities, was detained on March 30 near 5th and H streets NE after a 12-year-old boy was robbed at gunpoint in “a violent and dramatic incident,” Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement. The victim was beaten in the face, threatened with a pellet gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol, and had his cell phone stolen, The Washington Post reported.
The boy told police that three children had assaulted him around 4 p.m. in the 200 block of Massachusetts Avenue NE before running away. In a statement to The North Star, Metropolitan Police said they recovered a cell phone at the scene but did not recover a gun.
Police said the 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy were stopped and positively identified as taking part in the robbery, NBC Washington reported. Video of the 10-year-old being handcuffed quickly circulated on social media, angering many in the community. A woman in the video can be heard yelling at officers as the boy is being walked to a cruiser in handcuffs. “He is not resisting!” the woman yelled. “That is not OK!”
On Twitter, some argued that laws that do not require parental permission prior to questioning children should be examined. Others called for the officers involved to be fired.
Yet after reviewing surveillance video, Racine’s office determined that the 10-year-old did not play any part in the armed robbery. Racine said that he felt compelled to comment on the case after the child was deemed guilty and video of him being detained was widely shared. He noted that his office rarely discusses cases involving juveniles and that he obtained a court order to release his statement.
“We owe it to the young victim of this crime to hold the people who hurt him accountable,” Racine said. “We also owe it to the 10-year-old who was incorrectly identified as an armed robber to set the record straight.”
Chaquitta Williams, the 10-year-old’s mother, told NBC Washington that her son was innocent. “I just had to cry. It just hurt my feelings so bad to see my son put in handcuffs at the age of 10.”
Williams said the boy could not sleep after being traumatized by the incident. Metropolitan Police previously said they released the 10-year-old to his mother’s custody after he was detained.
The boy was given a summons to appear before juvenile authorities, but Racine said no charges would be filed against him. The attorney general said that the Metropolitan Police Department acted in accordance with its policies and procedures.
Police arrested a 13-year-old in the robbery case, but would not discuss that child’s arrest, The Washington Post reported.
Activists protested at the 1st District DC police station and argued that the 10-year-old’s detainment was not an isolated incident. “Black children matter!” members of the Black Lives Matter movement chanted in front of the station, according to NBC Washington.
Racine urged members of the press to stop sharing the video of the boy in police custody in order to protect his privacy. “As we have seen over the past few days, there are real, tangible consequences when confidentiality is breached,” the attorney general said. “I implore you to think carefully about protecting the privacy of all of our children moving forward,” according to Fox5DC.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.