Shocking footage has captured the moment a 12-year-old black boy was handcuffed and carried into a police cruiser after police identified him as a suspect in a series of car thefts.
Tashawn Bernard was taking out the trash outside his home in Lansing, Michigan on Thursday when he was confronted by a police officer wielding a gun, who thought the boy was a thief who had fled on foot earlier in the daytime.
A stunned bystander began filming the detention as at least four officers and a fleet of vehicles drove down to the parking lot outside the schoolboy’s home and saw his father Michael chastising cops for ‘traumatising’ his son.
Officials say Tashawn fit the description of a suspect in neon green shorts and a white shirt, but his family’s attorney allegedly disputed that and said he was wearing a gray shirt.
The video sparked a backlash that led to the city’s embarrassed police department and mayor issuing multiple statements of regret and explanation.
Bernard family lawyers Rico and Ayanna Neal said the 12-year-old was so distressed by the ordeal that he ‘doesn’t want to go out anymore…even to get the mail’.
Tashawn Bernard is pictured being pulled over by four cops after the innocent black 12-year-old was mistaken for a robbery suspect
This is the harrowing moment the handcuffed teenager was maneuvered into the back of a Lansing Police cruiser
Tawshawn’s father, Michael Bernard, is filmed angrily protesting the cops for their mistake, as his upset son looks on
Michael Bernard demanded answers from the cops, and at one point, the cops could be heard condemning for arresting his son based on a suspect’s physical description.
The video of the arrest racked up more than 3.5 million views in less than a day after it was posted on TikTok, which opened with Tashawn already handcuffed moments after dumping his trash in a large dumpster blue.
As the boy lowers his head and appears to exchange a few words with the officer, his father can be heard running out of his house exclaiming, “I am his father.”
During a virtual press conference on Friday, Michael said he knew something was wrong when Tashawn was taking longer than usual to take out the trash, adding that when he got out, ” the police stood around him”.
After seeing his son cross the parking lot, Michael turned around and put his head in his hands as police appeared to explain the arrest.
Although much of the footage was inaudible due to the distance it was filmed from, Michael could be heard raising his voice as officers continued to justify the detention.
“You always use that excuse man,” he said, adding, “It doesn’t matter – once you’re black, you fit any description, ultimately,” he added.
As Michael continues to plead his son’s case, Tashawn is taken away from his father and into a police vehicle while still handcuffed.
Just then, backup officers likely called in from the previous chase arrive on the scene, and a fleet of at least three additional police SUVs pull into the parking lot.
Michael also notices that the arrest is filmed by a bystander, leading him to walk down the sidewalk towards them with outstretched hands, proclaiming the incident to be “bulls***”.
“They’re traumatizing my son,” he continued, as the person behind the camera agrees the arrest was “bad shit.”
“All these cops for a teenager,” adds another person behind the camera, at the same time Tashawn is finally freed from the car and unbuckled by four officers crowding around him.
The boy appears to spend about a minute chatting with the officers, before running to his father on the sidewalk. As the officers slowly approached, someone could be heard saying “now they’re about to tell lies”.
Tashawn couldn’t even face the cops as he stood next to his tearful father, while Michael motioned for the cops to hurry up so he could round them up and reprimand them.
Tashawn Bernard (centre) seen in a video press conference alongside his parents. Her father Michael (left) has slammed the cops for their bold arrest, as their lawyers say they are ‘exploring all legal options’, potentially including filing a complaint
Family lawyers Ayanna and Rico Neal (pictured together) said Tashawn was too scared to even receive the mail after the terrifying ordeal
The Bernard family said they were “exploring all legal options” following the arrest, including “the possibility of taking legal action”, their lawyers said. They said they received no further information from the police other than what they saw on social media.
The Lansing Police Department faced a backlash after the detention, in part because of public statements intended to explain the circumstances of the arrest.
Lansing police released two statements Friday, with the first sent early in the morning sparking fury after they said the arrest was just a case of “wrong place, wrong time.”
In a follow-up statement again explaining how police believe Tashawn was wearing clothing similar to that of a suspect, Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosobee defended the arrest, calling it ‘respectful and professional’ .
Authorities said the “unfortunate misunderstanding” unfolded after a witness to a car theft “described a suspect wearing neon shorts and a white shirt”.
“A responding officer saw a subject matching this description and attempted to make contact, but the subject fled and ran west into the nearby apartment complex,” it read. in the first statement.
“Another officer was in the area and saw the young man pictured in the viral video wearing a very similar outfit and made contact with him. The first officer was able to respond and clarify that the young man in the video was not the suspect who fled earlier.
“Once this information was obtained, the young man was released and officers continued to search the area. Community relations is a top priority for us as a service, top to bottom. Our hope is that we can put this unfortunate case of “wrong place, wrong time” behind us and continue to represent the community we serve. »
The Facebook post included two grainy images of Tashawn side-by-side with the arrest suspect, who was wearing similarly colored clothing, but many netizens pointed out that the suspect was clearly much taller than the child.
The Lansing Police Department released a statement on Friday, the day after the arrest, that angered many after they tried to call the incident a “wrong place, wrong time.”
In his follow-up statement that was sent out several hours after the premiere, the Sosebee defended the arrest and said it was an unfortunate time as departments work to “address recent car thefts plaguing the our city”.
“In doing so, yesterday officers arrested a young man who was wearing similar clothing and in the same apartment complex as an accused car thief who fled from officers on foot,” the statement continued.
“When the officer first made contact he was near a bin, but after he had thrown away all the rubbish. The young man was then handed over to his father when he was eliminated as a defendant.
“The commanding officer at the scene contacted the young man’s father and explained the situation and apologized for the misunderstanding. I have reviewed the incident and can confirm that the officer who contacted and detained the young man was respectful and professional in their investigation.
“It’s unfortunate that incidents like this happen, but through communication and information sharing, we can help people understand the whole story,” the police chief concluded.
While apologizing because “this incident has had such an effect on this young man and his family”, Sosobee urged the community to “consider all the facts of the situation before passing judgment”.