Sacramento cops face criticism after video circulated online showing officers handcuffing a 12-year-old boy, who is black, pinning him face down on the ground and placing a sack over his head, and keeping it on him after he says multiple times, “I can’t breathe.”
The incident occurred in late April, per a Wednesday release from the city’s police department. It garnered wider attention in recent weeks after a bystander’s video circulated on social media.
In the police officer’s body camera video released Wednesday, an officer is seen running over to a young black boy who remains unnamed, but police confirmed to HuffPost is 12 years old. The boy stands with his arms held by a man ― who wears a shirt for Wienerschnitzel hot dog company ― as another man, who police identified to HuffPost as a private security guard, stands by.
The officer runs up, grabs the boy’s arms, pins him against a wall and starts to handcuff him.
“What am I under arrest for?” the boy asks at least seven times.
“He’s been having people buy shit for him over in the Walgreens,” says a voice that appears to be the guard’s. At another point a voice says the boy was “trespassing.”
Bystanders can be heard protesting: “He’s a little ass kid,” and “Call his parents, you can’t do that.” The boy repeatedly says “let me go,” and at one point says, “My parents should be here.”
After walking him over to the police car, the officer, now joined by other police, pins the boy face down on the ground. The boy curses several times, calls the cops “racist” and mentions “police brutality.” One female officer holding him down at one point is heard saying, “He is just a little terrorist.”
A female officer asks for a “spit mask” and a third officer places a white sack over his head ― which police identified as a “spit mask” or “spit sock hood” in their release. Earlier in the video the officer could be heard saying, “That’s fucking it, he spit on me,” and the boy said, “Yeah, I spit on you.”
“I can’t breathe,” the boy says multiple times, on the ground with the sack over his head. “Take this bag off my head,” he asks multiple times, as the cops put him in the back of their car, the bag still over his head.
The boy was later released to his mother and cited for battery against a police officer and resisting officers, per the police’s release.
The Sacramento police told HuffPost they are not conducting an investigation into the officers involved.
“Our officers involved in this incident appropriately used a spit mask to protect themselves and defuse the situation,” police chief Daniel Hahn said in the release. “I am grateful that our officers were willing to proactively intervene when they observed suspicious activity, and that nobody was injured during this encounter.”
“The kid’s a good kid,” Mark Harris, an attorney representing the boy and his family, told The Sacramento Bee. The family plans to file a lawsuit against police. “He’s a small, slight kid, he’s under 4-foot-8 and he weighs less than 80 pounds … He’s a little bitty kid. None of this should have come down the way it did.”
Harris works for the law firm of Ben Crump, which also represented the family of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man who was shot dead by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s yard last year. Earlier this year, the district attorney and the state attorney general decided not to criminally charge the officers involved in Clark’s death.
Harris told The Washington Post that the boy was attending a carnival nearby, and was going to get change from an adult chaperone’s car to use at the fair at their request, when a security guard apparently became suspicious and began to chase him. In their release, the Sacramento police said officers in the area saw the boy “running away from a security guard” and intervened to assist the guard.
Studies have shown that black boys and girls are often perceived by U.S. adults to be older than they are, and face harmful consequences as a result. A 2014 study by Phillip Goff found black boys specifically were more likely to be viewed as older and to be suspected of crimes starting at age 10.