Chicago police are investigating cellphone video of a 10-year-old boy being handcuffed and detained by officers in what his family believes was a case of mistaken identity.
The 40-second clip shows officers handcuffing fourth-grader Michael Thomas, Jr. outside his grandmother’s home last Friday and questioning him about having a firearm. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said authorities received several calls about a 10- to 12-year -old Black boy with a gun and Thomas matched the description, according to NBC Chicago.
“That’s our kid. They need to apologize,” Thomas’ mother, Starr Ramsey, told the station. “He’s going to be scared for the rest of his life now. I want answers. You can look at him and tell he’s not a teenager. Ten years old, you get handcuffed? You scarred him for life.”
In the video, Thomas is seen fighting back tears as officers detain him and ask him if he had escaped from a juvenile detention center. Officers said the boy initially ran when they tried to approach him.
“I was scared and I was crying and that’s when they told me I had escaped from juvenile and I had a gun,” Thomas Jr. said. “I said I didn’t escape from juvenile and I don’t have a gun.”
Thomas’ uncle, Victor, said the cops were looking for a 12-year-old Black youth on a bike wearing all blue with a gun but noted there were about “five little Black boys with all blue on” the block when his nephew was arrested. The boy’s grandmother, Yolanda, also witnessed the arrest and immediately questioned why he was being detained when police said they were looking for a teenager.
“You can see that he doesn’t have any weapons on him,” she said. ” … I raised up my grandbaby’s shirt. He don’t have anything on him. Take those handcuffs off him. He should have never been put in those handcuffs.”
After about 15 minutes, Thomas Jr. was finally released from handcuffs.
Superintendent Johnson has since addressed the incident, saying while he “can only imagine” the anguish Thomas’ mother and grandmother must feel, his officers followed “all the rules and protocols.”
“Anytime you have to interact from a law enforcement standpoint with a child that you, it’s difficult,” he said. So, I can only imagine the mothers and grandmothers anguish that that child had to go through that situation.”