A police department in Georgia says it is investigating the circumstances that led an officer to forcefully restrain a young boy.
Video of the encounter spread through social media, drawing allegations of excessive force. On Monday, as furor grew over the video, Athens-Clarke County Police released the officer’s body camera footage and a statement regarding the incident.
Chief R. Scott Freeman has ordered an internal affairs investigation, the statement said, and the Athens-Clarke County attorney is reviewing the incident because a juvenile is involved.
The woman who posted the original video on Facebook did not return CNN’s emails or Facebook messages attempting to reach her. Her video prompted allegations of racial bias because the officer is white and the boy is black. But the body camera footage offers additional context: the raw emotional reaction of a child witnessing a parent’s arrest and the officer’s split-second response.
The officer’s perspective
Officers were sent to a home in Athens around 6:30 p.m. on Friday in response to domestic violence allegations, according to a police report.
The officer’s body camera footage starts with the suspect being handcuffed. The boy, identified by police as the suspect’s 10-year-old son, runs into the frame, screaming and crying.
The boy approaches the officer and a woman pulls him away. “Chill out,” the man yells at his son. But the boy grows more agitated.
“Why? Why?” the boy screams. “He didn’t shoot nobody.”
As the officers lead the man to the patrol car, the boy runs toward them. According to the police statement, the child lunged at one of the officers.
“Our officer caught the child in mid-air and the momentum of the child launching himself caused the both of them to land on the patrol car. The child continued to be emotionally distraught, and continued with the outburst, at which time our officer placed him on the ground,” the statement says.
“While on the ground, the officer continued to attempt to de-escalate the situation, assuring the child that he was not under arrest and that he would let him up if he would remain calm.”
The bystander’s perspective
The 1:28 video posted Sunday night on Facebook starts about three minutes into the body camera footage.
It opens with a shot of an officer pinning the boy to the ground on his stomach. He holds the boy in place by his arms – one twisted behind his back and the other stretched out on the grass. Another officer crouches to the side, his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
The boy can be heard apologizing as the officer asks if he understands. The shouts of the adults off camera drown out the conversation.
“How you gonna do a child like that?” one of the adults is heard yelling in the Facebook video.
About 40 seconds into the video the child is off the ground.
’When you get out, Daddy?’
The body camera footage captures the words exchanged between the officer and the child.
“Stop resisting, stop resisting,” the officer yells as he wrestles with the boy and pulls out handcuffs.
“Sorry! Sorry,” the boy cries. “I don’t want to go to jail.”
The officer assures him he won’t go to jail if he calms down. “You understand?” the officer says. “You don’t run into a police officer.”
The boy apologizes and the officer lets the boy up. Still distraught, the child asks if he can take his father’s phone from him. He begs to know what his father did. “He didn’t do nothing,” he sobs.
Before the patrol car leaves, the officer grants the boy’s wish. He rolls down the window and lets the boy reach into the car. He take his father’s phone and promises to call someone who can bail him out. Then, he pats him on the top of his head and sobs.
“When you get out, Daddy?” he wails. “I love you.”