Honestie Hodges, a 14-year-old Michigan girl who sparked change from the Grand Rapids Police Department after she was handcuffed by police outside of her own home at 11 years old, has died of COVID-19.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all of you that my beautiful, sassy, smart loving Granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus,” her grandmother Alisa Niemeyer posted to the family’s GoFundMe page after Hodges passed away on Sunday.
In December 2017, when she was 11 years old, Hodges had just stepped out of her Michigan home with her mother and another family member when she was held at gunpoint and detained by Grand Rapids officers.
With their guns drawn, officers ordered Hodges to put her hands above her head.
“She’s 11 years old, sir!” her mother shouted.
In response, an officer told her to stop yelling and ordered Hodges to walk backward toward him with her hands in the air.
Her hands were pulled behind her back and she was placed in handcuffs before she was put into the back of a patrol car.
Police said they were looking for her 40-year-old white aunt in connection to a stabbing incident.
The handcuffs were removed moments later.
The Grand Rapids officers involved in the incident didn’t face disciplinary action because they hadn’t violated department policy.
The release of footage of the incident sparked unrest in the city.
“Listening to the 11-year-old’s response makes my stomach turn; it makes me physically nauseous,” said Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky at the time.
In 2018, the department adopted the “Honestie Policy,” which requires the least restrictive methods to be used when dealing you juveniles.
On Nov. 9, her 14th birthday, Hodges complained that her stomach was hurting and was taken to a hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19.
She was sent home, then rushed back later that same night after her condition deteriorated.
After spending days in the ICU, Hodges was placed on a ventilator on Nov. 14, although she never recovered.
This year, her family was negotiating with the city to settle a legal claim for her mistreatment in the 2017 incident.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said on Nov. 23 there had been a 28 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in children over the previous two weeks. Although studies have shown that children appear to be less affected by the virus, in September the CDC found that 78 percent of children dying from coronavirus are minorities. Some 35 percent of children who died of COVID-19 complications were Black.
“Folks, we have to take this extremely, extremely seriously, have to take this extremely personal, this is personal to us, more now so than ever,” said Cle Jackson, president of the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP, at a press conference on Nov. 24. “We lost one of our own,” he added. “A 14-year-old young princess, who had an incredible and remarkable life ahead of her.”