Body camera footage of Maryland police officers detaining a 5-year-old boy during a January 2020 incident has sparked outrage after the Montgomery County Police Department released the 51-minute video on Friday after months of requests from a local official.
During the encounter, two officers shouted at the boy, calling him a “little beast” and telling him, “I hope your mama let me beat you.” The boy’s mother filed a lawsuit earlier this year. The suit identifies the officers as Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon, both of whom are Black. The litigation is pending.
Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando, who said he’s been requesting that the video be released for three months, described the ordeal as a “nightmare.”
“It made me sick. We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the back of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer’s lungs, inches from his face. This is violence,” Jawando said.
The incident began on Jan. 14, 2020, when Montgomery County, Police were contacted because a 5-year-old boy had wandered off the grounds of East Silver Spring Elementary School.
The footage begins as police arrive in a neighborhood where the boy is leaning up against a parked car.
As Officer Kevin Christmon led the boy away from the car by the arm and toward a squad car the child began to cry.
“Cut it out,” Christmon said. “Get in the car or we’re gonna have problems. I don’t want to hear it. You better stop.”
A female administrator told the officer the boy was “unofficially” known to be “special needs.”
Officer Dionne Holliday spoke to the child as he sat in the back seat of the squad car. “Does your mama spank you? ‘Cause she is today,” she said. “I’m gonna ask her if I can do it.”
Once inside the school building, Holliday remarked, “Shut that noise up now!” as the boy cried. “I hope your mama let me beat you.”
Holliday then moved inches from the boy’s face and screamed “Ahhhh” five times. The two officers then spoke to each other about the boy’s behavior at school while in earshot of the boy. Christmon called the boy “a violent little thing.”
The officers joked about putting the boy in a “crate,” calling him a “little beast.”
When the boy’s mother arrived at the school, Holliday told her she should “smack that butt repeatedly.”
Later, after the mom and officers and a school administrator had conferred together in another room, the boy was confronted with handcuffs.
“When you get older, when you want to make your own decisions, you know what’s going to be your best friend?” Christmon asked the child after putting a cuff on his right wrist and putting his arms behind his back. “These right here. You know what these are? These are handcuffs. You know what they’re for? You know what these are for? These are for people that don’t want to listen and don’t know how to act.”
Christmon left the cuff around the wrist for about a minute before removing it.
The Montgomery County school system issued a statement after the footage was released, calling the video “extremely difficult” to watch.
“There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way,” the school system said. “As parents and grandparents, we know that when families send their children to school, they expect that the staff will care for them, keep them safe and use appropriate intervention processes when needed,” the statement said.
Councilman Jawando is calling for an investigation, and for the officers to be fired. A police spokesperson said an internal investigation has already concluded and that the Christmon and Holliday remain sworn officers with the department.
The lawsuit filed by the boy’s mother named Holliday, Christmon, the Montgomery County government as a whole, and the Montgomery County Board of Education, as defendants.
The officers are accused in the suit of assault and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on a child while the school system is accused of negligence.
More than 500 people have signed an online letter calling for the officers to be suspended or fired.