Leaving the handcuffs, the officer tells the boy to put his hands in front of him as they escort him to the police car parked outside.
“You understand that this is very serious, okay? I hate putting you in this position and I have to do it, okay?” Says a second officer.
The 2018 boy arrest on suspicion of hitting a teacher at his Key West school, Fla., Received renewed attention Monday when body-camera footage of the incident posted by attorney Ben Crump went viral on Twitter. The two-minute clip has garnered more than 2 million views since early Tuesday.
“Unbelievable !!”; Called Twitter. “@KWPOLICE used ‘right scared’ tactics for 8yo boy with special needs.”
The Key West Police Department defended the conduct of its officers in a brief statement.
“According to the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg told the Miami Herald.
Amid mass protests this year, interactions between police and juveniles have increased with increased control. Last week police in Aurora, Colo apologized after officers ordered four Black children at the gun point to lie face down, handcuffing two of them after they mistakenly pulled out their car. In February, footage of an Orlando police officer arresting a 6-year-old girl using a fire tie sparked national outrage. The officer was fired for violating the policy.
The Key West boy, who has not been publicly identified because he is a minor, was arrested on Dec. 14, 2018 at Gerald Adams Elementary, according to an arrest report reviewed by the Miami Herald.
Police said the incident began when a teacher noticed the boy was sitting inappropriately at a lunch table. When the teacher asked him to sit next to her, she said he refused, saying, “Do not lay your hands on me.”
The report said the teacher took the boy for a walk, during which he allegedly cursed him and punched him. She then took him to the office, where Officer Michael Malgrat, who wrote the report, said the boy “had his hands clenched into fists and he was positioned as if he were ready to fight”.
But Crump said the boy had emotional and behavioral disabilities that had been neglected during the incident. Despite having an individualized education program, the school placed him with a substitute teacher “who had no awareness or concern for his needs,” Crump said in a news release. Crump claimed the teacher “escalated the situation by using her hands to move her forcefully.”
Crump also called the arrest video “disturbing.” At one point, as one officer prepares to handcuff the boy, another warns him that the boy’s wrists are very likely. A third officer can be heard telling the boy that it is his fault that the officers should arrest him.
The video then shows the boy being escorted to a police car. The boy was taken to a juvenile justice institution in Key West, the Herald reported. Crump said he was subsequently charged with criminal drums. It is not clear how the issue was resolved.
The boy’s lawyer claimed that the officers used “fear-ridden” tactics, a kind of program created to warn juveniles to stay away from future criminal activity while emphasizing the grave consequences. Such programs have drawn long scrutiny from child advocates, who say dehumanizing and intimidating students is not effective.
“This little boy posed no threat to anyone,” Crump said.
Crump said he plans to file a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Bianca N. Digennaro, the boy’s mother, against officers, school officials, the Monroe County school district and the town of Key West.
The Monroe County School of Counting and the town of Kay West have not yet commented on the case.
“This is a heartbreaking example of how our education and police systems train children to be criminals by treating them as criminals,” Crump said. “This guy failed out of all those who played a part in this horrific incident.”