Part of Key West Pictures of the police photographic body from the arrest in December 2018 were published on Monday by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the boy’s mother.
On Tuesday she filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that officers used excessive force, that school officials failed to intervene, and that the city and school district violated U.S. Law on Disabilities. The lawsuit says the boy has special needs.
Key West police declined to comment to CNN, citing the court case.
The mother, Bianca N. Digennaro, told a Zoom press conference on Tuesday that her son was arrested, sent to jail, finger-pressed, DNA-subdued and had taken off his mask that day.
The boy ̵1; who was 3 and a half tall and weighed 64 pounds, Crump said – was charged with criminal drums. His mother fought the case in court for nine months until a prosecutor dismissed the charges.
Crump, Devon Jacob and Sue-Ann Robinson are representing Digennaro in the lawsuit.
“This is a heartbreaking example of how our education and police systems train children to be criminals by treating them as criminals – if convicted, the child in this case would be a convicted criminal at the age of eight,” Crump said in a statement. . “This little boy was defeated by all those who played a part in this horrific incident.”
Jacob, Digennaro’s lawyer, said the chief’s comment that this was a standard arrest was exactly the issue.
“This is the problem. That is why we have this lawsuit. This will end with this lawsuit,” he said.
Monroe County Assistant Secretary of State Val E. Winter said in an email that a boy was being assessed for a mental health assessment, in collaboration with his attorney, and this determined it was in the best interest of the child to dump down charges, based on that of the boy age and mental assessment.
The matter was dismissed after the office received confirmation of services based on the doctor’s report, Winter said.
Monroe County School District declined to comment. The elementary school did not respond to a request for comment. The teacher was unable to reach.
What the police report and video show
Police moved in to arrest the boy after he allegedly hit a teacher, who was uninsured, according to a Key West Police report. Crump identified the teacher as a substitute.
The teacher was supervising a class in the lunch room and said the student was not sitting properly on the bench, the report said. She asked him to sit properly several times, and then she asked him to sit next to her, the report said. He refused, and she got up and went in front of him, according to the police report.
She told police the student told her “do not put your hands on me” as she approached. The student allegedly started cursing him, told her “my mother will beat your ass”, and then punched him in the chest with his right hand, the teacher said, according to the police report.
An officer observed the hands of the boy caught in the fists and “he was positioned as if he were ready to fight,” the police report said.
The teacher did not suffer any “visible injury” from the blow, the report said.
Part of the police camera footage, provided by Crump, then begins as three officers move to arrest the boy, who is sitting and crying.
“Son, do you know where you are going? You will go to jail,” says one officer.
The officer asks her to put her hands up against a cabinet and then pet the boy, the video shows. The officer then asks the boy to put his hands behind his back and he agrees. The officer then tries to place the handcuffs on the boy, but soon realizes that the handcuffs will not fit the wrists.
“Your hands are too small,” says the officer.
Instead, officers ask him to keep his hands in front of him, the video shows, and they then appear to be walking towards a police vehicle, but the video ends before they reach the vehicle.
“You understand that this is very serious, okay?” says another officer. “I hate that you put me in this position that I have to do this. OK? Okay? The thing about it was a mistake, now is the time to learn from it and grow from it, right? Not I repeat the same mistake again, okay? “
Key West police said they are not releasing the full video of the cameras on CNN because the person is young.
Mother: The son had a plan for special needs
Digennaro said her son has been diagnosed with ADHD, adversarial disorder, depression and anxiety, and that he was taking medication for them. When he starts having an episode, as she says it happened in this incident, he becomes sensitive to anyone who touches it, she said.
In February 2018, the school district conducted an assessment of the boy and classified him as an “emotional or behavioral incapacity,” according to the lawsuit. The school district also developed a Personalized Education Program tailored to its needs, the lawsuit said.
In a statement, Crump said the teacher had no awareness or concern about those needs and escalated the situation. The police report does not indicate that he had special needs, and it is unclear whether the teacher or police officers were aware of the disability.
According to the police report, the school contacted the boy’s parents before arresting him. The court proceedings show that the student’s mother was out of town and the father came to school before the boy was left in custody.
Jacob, the family lawyer, criticized the actions of the police involved in the incident.
“As a former police officer, I am appalled by the behavior of these officers,” he said. “Their actions and the treatment of this young boy, in addition to being inappropriate, deviate from the widely accepted police procedures regarding the treatment of minors and persons with disabilities.”
“We are trying to fight for Bianca Digennaro’s little boy but (also) for other marginalized young children whose system will try to put the school pipeline in jail even before they reach their teens,” he said.
Digennaro said her son, now 10, is doing better but that the incident was traumatic.
“I’m heartbroken this thing happened to my son,” she said.
“I’m only here for my son because I refuse to let them make him a criminal or convicted at the age of eight.”
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.