Two Maryland police officers have been accused of screaming at, grabbing and threatening a 5-year-old elementary school student.
The boy’s mother, Shanta Grant, filed a lawsuit this month against Montgomery County Police Officers Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon – as well as Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Board of Education.
The Montgomery County Department of Police told CNN it does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation. CNN was not able to reach Officer Holliday. Officer Christmon declined to comment to CNN.
The case comes amid public pressure for widespread change in policing policy following high-profile police encounters – some involving the treatment of children by law enforcement. The broader outcry has included calls to defund or abolish police departments.
The Maryland complaint alleges that in January 2020 the kindergartner walked off the East Silver Spring Elementary School premises when he “was not being properly supervised.”
Officers were dispatched to the scene when school employees called police to help find him.
Christmon was wearing a body camera, while Holliday was not, according to Grant’s attorney, Matthew Bennett, who obtained the footage from the incident. Bennett told CNN the video is not being released because it is not a matter of public record right now.
The officers found the boy two-tenths of a mile away from the school and, after speaking to the boy for one minute, Christmon “started to lose his patience” and “forcefully grabbed” the boy’s arm. Christmon continued to hold the boy’s arm as the boy started to cry, the complaint states.
The boy “was scared and did not want to get into the police car. Christmon grabbed (the boy) and placed him in the squad car,” the complaint alleges. “This was extremely frightening to (the boy) because he thought he was going to be taken to jail.”
A school employee, believed to be assistant principal at East Silver Spring Elementary School, stood by and did nothing to de-escalate the situation, according to the complaint. The assistant principal is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
“Perhaps … the officers failed to consider that (the boy) was not a criminal, did not commit a crime and was disqualified under the law, because of his age, from committing a crime,” the complaint says. “They all completely disregarded the potential trauma that could arise from yelling at a 5-year-old child and placing him in a squad car.”
The crying intensifies at the school
Once back at the school, the officers allegedly made statements to each other in front of the child, calling the boy bad and Holliday allegedly saying “this is why people need to beat their kids.”
Christmon then forced the boy into a chair, causing his “crying to intensify,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint says Holliday yelled at the boy to “shut that noise up now!” and then got within inches of the boy’s face and “added, ‘I hope your mama let (sic) me beat you.’”
According to the complaint, this led the boy “to believe that Holliday was about to cause him physical harm.”
Holliday then “got within inches of (the boy)’s face and then let out 5 primal screams with the purpose of terrorizing an already traumatized and upset child.”
Montgomery County Public Schools told CNN it was unable to comment on the incident at this time, given the pending litigation. The district shared a message from the East Silver Spring Elementary School’s principal that had been sent to the community last weekend.
“While I am unable to share specific details about this incident due to the pending lawsuit, I want to assure you that we are unwavering in our commitment to ensure that East Silver Spring Elementary School is a safe place where all students can learn, thrive and reach their highest potential,” the letter said in part.
“We follow all proper processes and procedures when responding to incidents involving our students and always have their safety and well-being as our top priority.”
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 also told CNN it could not comment on the incident and doesn’t have details of the investigation since it is ongoing.
“Our members have fully cooperated in the investigation and gave their statements to internal investigators in August. They are awaiting its results and any recommended discipline from the police chief. We do agree with the feelings of the community – internal investigations shouldn’t take a year to process. The FOP believes that justice and discipline should be served in a timely and fair fashion,” it said in a statement to CNN.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has been “disturbed” by the allegations against the officers, a spokesman told CNN.
“The County Executive is disturbed about the alleged actions of two MCPD officers. He has been in communication with the Police Chief who is equally troubled by these serious allegations.
“With respect to these allegations, MCPD is following the process that it uses in reviewing all claims of police officer misconduct.
“Because State law prohibits MCPD from disclosing personnel information, no further details can be shared with the public. After the County Attorney’s Office has reviewed the lawsuit, the County will respond as appropriate,” Barry Hudson said in a statement.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.