A Grand Rapids cop pointed a gun at five terrified black children who were walking home after playing basketball and ordered them to “get on the ground” with their hands outstretched, according to recently released videos from the officers’ body-worn cameras.
The boys, ages 12 to 14, complied with Officer Caleb Johnson’s orders and lay face down on a sidewalk. One of the children’s mothers screamed from a nearby porch.
“Don’t shoot me,” one of the weeping children begged.
Another child told the officer, “I don’t want to die.”
Several more officers arrived and pointed their guns at the children for about 10 minutes.
The March 24 encounter began when Officer Johnson was responding to a report of a fight on a basketball court and a teenager who ditched a gun. Johnson rolled up on the five children because two of them were wearing similar clothes as the suspects.
The boys, some of them in tears, were forced to kneel while police handcuffed them and placed them in a squad car.
Turns out, the boys were unarmed and cleared of suspicions and police determined they were not connected the suspects.
The parents were furious.
“You all didn’t see a gun, but you pulled a gun on my kids,” the mother told officers.
Earlier this month, the city released a report that concluded there was racial bias in the police department. Data from 2013 to 2015 showed that black drivers were twice as likely to get pulled over as non-black drivers.
Police Chief David Rahinsky defended how his officers handled the children, saying they could have been dangerous if they were the actual suspects.
“They didn’t do anything wrong.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.