Michigan officials apologise after wrongly arresting 12-year-old Black boy in ‘unfortunate’ incident

The mayor and law enforcement officials in Lansing, Michigan are apologising to the family of a 12-year-old Black boy who was wrongfully arrested as a suspected car thief.

Viral footage of the boy’s arrest on 10 August while he was taking out the trash from his home shows a white officer leading the boy through a parking lot with his hands cuffed behind his back. A lawyer representing the family told the Associated Press that the boy was initially approached by an officer with an unholstered gun “and was holding it in front of him”.

The footage shows a man identified as the boy’s father, Michael Bernard, approaching the officer as the boy is brought to a patrol car and placed in the rear seat. Roughly three minutes into the video, officers remove the cuffs and walk him towards his father.

“They trauamtised my son,” Mr Bernard can be heard saying in the video.

The first of a series of statements issued by the Lansing Police Department called the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding”. A second statement said the boy was released to his father “when eliminated as the accused.”

Officials said that the boy was wearing the same clothes as a suspect in a vehicle theft investigation.

“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,” Lansing police chief Ellery Sosobee said in the statement.

“As the Chief of Police, I want to apologize that this incident had such an effect on this young man and his family,” he added. “I’m asking for the community to consider all the facts of the situation before making a judgment.”

A statement from Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said police “made a mistake in detaining the wrong person during a vehicle theft investigation.”

“I join Chief Sosebee in offering my apologies to the young man and to his family,” he added.

Police remain “in contact” with the boy’s family and are “providing resources and support for any trauma” as a result of the incident, according to the mayor’s office.

“Our officers do their absolute best to protect Lansing, but in this case a mistake was made and we own it and apologise to those affected,” he said. “As mayor, I once again offer my sincere apology to this young man.”

Lawyers for the boy’s family are “exploring all legal options” including a potential lawsuit, attorneys Ayanna and Rico Neal said during a virtual press conference.

The incident comes as the Detroit Police Department faces heightened scrutiny after a series of wrongful arrests of Black residents who were incorrectly targeted by facial recognition technology.

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