A North Carolina woman is calling for changes to the Raleigh Police Department after she said officers pointed “military-style rifles” at her 6-year-old autistic son and the boy’s grandparents while executing a search warrant late last year.
LaDonna Clark detailed the incident during a Raleigh City Council meeting Tuesday night, calling it the “most terrorizing experience of their lives.” The meeting was broadcast live on the city’s cable television access channel and captured Clark’s demands for policies that will hold police accountable.
“This is my 6-year-old son, Ayden,” she began as a photo of a smiling boy appeared on the council’s monitors. “He is now famous because, at the tender age of 6, he joined the group of 49 percent of Black males that will have an encounter with police. And thank God he is able to live and talk about it.”
According to The News & Observer, officers arrived with a warrant to search Clark’s home in mid-November looking for stolen phones after an AT&T store had been robbed. Officers recovered a cardboard box left behind by one of the suspects with the home’s address on it, according to the warrant.
Police later identified the suspect as Brian Clark, who they said lived at the home. LaDonna Clark, who acknowledged Brian is a relative, rebutted this however, saying authorities knew he wasn’t living there at the time because officers had previously visited the home for a “check-in.”
The relation between LaDonna and Brian wasn’t immediately clear.
Brian Clark was arrested and charged with “multiple felony counts” for the robbery, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said in a statement. The armed robbery charge is the latest for Clark, who’s been charged for several previous crimes including breaking-and-entering and second-degree burglary, court records show.
“The safety and well-being of all Raleigh residents is a top priority for the Raleigh Police Department,” Deck-Brown said in the statement. “The incident has been, and is still being reviewed by the Raleigh Police Department Office of Professional Standards.”
During the search, LaDonna Clark said officers forced her son, who’s autistic and suffers from cerebral palsy, out of the home “on a 35-degree and rainy night” and pointed loaded military rifles at his head.
He was “made to sit on the cold, wet ground for well over an hour by [the police] SWAT [team],” she told council members of the incident. “If you’re not offended by the thought of a 6-year-old being forced to look down the barrel of an assault rifle or if you have become desensitized to the mistreatment of blacks in the city of Raleigh, [then] you don’t deserve to continue to sit where you are sitting.”
Clark said she filed a complaint with the department and asked to see the police video, but was turned away by an internal affairs officer who claimed she would have to come in for an interview before an investigation was launched and refused to give her the complaint number associated with the case, local station WRAL reported. She added that the official assured her that the “officers did nothing wrong.”
It was only after until Clark signed to speak to the council that she heard back from police.
“The question remains: Who is policing the police?” she said. “In Ayden’s case, there was no threat present that constituted my son and his elderly grandparents to have assault rifles aimed at them and ready to fire.”
In a statement, Deck-Brown said the investigation began Nov. 16, just a few days after the incident. The police chief has promised a “thorough” review of the matter.
In the meantime, Clark and others have called for a police oversight committee with subpoena power to begin holding officers accountable. The move would require approval from the General Assembly.
Watch more in the video below.