GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police on Friday said bodycam video shows they acted appropriately when they stopped 11-year-old twin brothers and an older teen at gunpoint on Sunday after a report of kids with a gun.
But the mother of the twins, Juanita Ligon, questioned why the Grand Rapids Police Department released only one of the videos.
“I want the rest,” said Ligon, who has filed a complaint with the department. “I want the beginning to the end.”
Police said it started shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday with a 911 call from a passerby who reported seeing two black teens — around 13 — walking in the area with a handgun.
Police said they stopped the twins and the 17-year-old several minutes later, six blocks away on Eastern Avenue SE.
The 12-minute video released Friday starts with the twins and the older teen already stopped on the sidewalk, each with hands atop his head, and police with guns drawn.
The boys later told police they were headed to a restaurant from home.
In the video, police are barking instructions for each to walk backwards, one at a time, forcing them onto the ground, handcuffing them then placing them in patrol cars.
“Do you understand what’s going on, bud?” an officer asks one of the twins. “Someone called and said that a black male about 13 had a gun in his hand walking with a black male with a black shirt. OK? Right in this area. We didn’t say it was you, OK, but you match the description with the red shirt, and we have to make sure everything’s OK.”
The mom called that racial profiling, an allegation that the police chief denied.
“Nothing could be further from the truth in regards to how they were chosen to be stopped and spoken to,” Chief David Rahinsky said. “Any time you respond to a gun call, it’s a high-risk dynamic situation. It’s very easy to tell the age of an individual after the fact.”
At one point in the video, one of the twins starts crying.
“That is a baby, that is a baby,” his mom said while watching the video. “They had to walk backwards, afraid, with guns pointed toward their heads, get on the ground and be put in cuffs, and in a car. They was treated like animals. That is not how you treat 11-year-old boys.”
However, the police chief said his officers acted appropriately, following a new policy instituted after an 11-year-old was handcuffed last year.
The twins and the 17-year-old were handcuffed only briefly, he said, then put in a patrol car while they called their mom.
“I know it’s kind of a scary situation, but we want to make sure you guys are ok as well, alright?” an officer can be heard in the video.
“I think they showed great compassion and humanity,” the chief said. “Having said that, I also recognize that as a parent, if that’s your 11-year-old, there’s never going to be a good emotional response to these issues. That’s the reality.”
The mom is demanding police release video from every officer there, along with the original 911 call.
The chief said the department is working to produce video from the other officers, along with a transcript of the 911 call.
The incident comes less than five months after GRPD released new policies designed after video was released of officers cuffing a hysterical Honestie Hodges, also 11. The incident outraged the community, gained national attention and led to the policy named after Honestie.
The policy calls for police to treat young suspects with care and to avoid any more force or restraint than absolutely necessary.
**Correction: This story previously said the twins were arrested, which is not accurate. We regret the error.**