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Lansing Police Say Handcuffing 12-Year-Old Black Boy Taking Out Trash Was ‘Unfortunate Misunderstanding’ After Mistaking Child for Car Theft Suspect

Police in Lansing, Michigan, released details on what exactly happened in a viral video of a young, Black boy being handcuffed and detained while taking out the trash, which outraged the surrounding community and many people online.

That video begins with a view of a police presence in what appears to be a residential neighborhood. Viewers can also see a young boy handcuffed, standing with an officer. Multiple patrol cars show up at the scene to surround the 12-year-old boy.

Lansing police say they mistook a young, Black boy just taking out the trash in his neighborhood for a car theft suspect and wrongfully handcuffed and detained him. They call the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding.” (Photos: TikTok/careyann327)

A few moments later, the video pans to a man who appears to be the boy’s father questioning the officers at the scene about why they’re detaining the child. The officers walk the boy over to where the man and another officer are having that conversation, then walk him back to one of the squad cars at the scene, where he is placed in the back of it.

While not much of the conversation can be heard, the officer seems to explain to the man that the boy fits a suspect description.

After the man begins protesting his son’s detainment, the officers take the boy out of the police car and question him before releasing him.

Video of the entire encounter was heavily circulated online, drawing the ire and backlash of many people on social media.

“Can you imagine the amount of self-control it took that dad to keep his composure?” one Instagram user commented under the video.”

“This poor boy’s life is changed forever. His perception of who he is in this world is damaged,” a TikTok user said.

“Lawsuit period,” another person wrote.

Police posted a statement on Facebook to clarify what led to the encounter. They said that officers were investigating a string of Kia thefts in a southwestern corner of the town.

One witness said a suspect was wearing neon shorts and a white shirt. One officer saw someone wearing the outfit described to police, and when he tried to make contact, the suspect fled into a nearby apartment complex.

A different officer saw the boy wearing a similar outfit in the same complex and approached him to question him. The initial officer who saw the suspect later clarified at the scene of the boy’s detainment that the boy was not the suspect who fled.

Afterward, the boy, later identified by Lansing State Journal as Tashawn Bernard was released.

“We want to provide some background information on this unfortunate misunderstanding,” Lansing police wrote on Facebook. “Community relations is a top priority for us as a department, from top-down. Our hope is we can put this unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ behind us and continue to represent the community that we serve.”

Below are side-by-side pictures that police provided of the suspect and the boy they mistakenly detained. Their faces were blurred to protect their identities.

Photos: Lansing Police Department

Attorneys for Tashawn’s family asked that police take down its Facebook post on Friday night, saying the photo makes it appear that his shirt was white when it was gray.

“It does not accurately reflect what Tashawn was wearing,” said Ayanna Neal of Grewal Law. “They need to take down the post.”

Police Chief Ellery Sosebee released another statement recapping the events leading to the boy’s wrongful detainment and mistaken identity. He said the commanding officer on the scene “explained the situation” to the boy’s father and “apologized for the misunderstanding.”

“I have reviewed the incident and can confirm the officer who contacted and detained the young man was respectful and professional during his investigation,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that incidents like this occur, but through communication and sharing of information, we can help people understand the whole story. We understand that something like this has an impact on all parties involved.”

Michael Bernard said his son “should not have been subjected to this treatment.” His attorneys said that Tashawn is now traumatized by the encounter with police and is afraid to go outside.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said that the department has been in touch with the Bernard family to offer the 12-year-old “resources and support for any trauma involved.”

The mayor also apologized.”The Lansing Police Department made a mistake in detaining the wrong person during a vehicle theft investigation,” Schor said in the statement.

Still, the boy’s family is exploring “all legal options,” according to the attorneys.

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