Police in Georgia are investigating an incident where an officer forcefully restrained a 10-year-old boy after he became “emotionally distraught” over his father’s arrest.
Two Athens-Clarke County police officers involved in the incident have not been placed on administrative leave and will be returning to active duty, police said Tuesday. The county attorney is also reviewing the footage of the incident because of a juvenile’s involvement, police said in a press release.
The police department is conducting an internal affairs investigation.
One of the boy’s family members uploaded a Facebook video Sunday, showing one of the officers putting the boy — who was screaming and crying — to the ground and restraining him.
“These mfs done slammed my lil cousin on the car first (the footage I didn’t get) then on the ground and he's only 9,” the woman who uploaded the video said on Facebook.
“And FYI Eric didn’t do anything but was tryna talk to his dad who was in the police car. THAT’S IT!!!!!” she wrote.
BuzzFeed News isn’t embedding the video because it depicts a minor.
After the Facebook video was widely shared, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department released bodycam footage showing more footage of what happened before and after.
Police said that officers arrested a domestic violence suspect at his house Friday, charging him with aggravated assault, strangulation, and false imprisonment.
During the arrest, police said the man’s 10-year-old son became “extremely emotionally distraught.”
The bodycam footage shows the suspect’s 10-year-old son becoming increasingly upset over his father’s arrest and begin crying as his family members try to calm him down and send him back to the house.
In the footage, the child can be heard screaming, “What’s he getting locked up for? He didn’t shoot nobody.” The suspect tells his son to “chill out” and asks the other family members to “let him go.”
As one of the officers leads the suspect to the second patrol vehicle at the back, the boy is seen running past them, screaming, “You’re not going nowhere.”
In the video, the boy’s family members are seen pulling him away from the officers, but he runs past them and leaps into the air.
The police said that the bodycam video “clearly” showed that the child “lunged at one of our officers” who caught him midair, causing both the child and the officer to land on the patrol car.
During a press conference Monday, police spokesperson Epifanio Rodriguez said that the bodycam footage showed that the “kid...is completely off his feet flying towards our officer” and that his “momentum pushed both himself and the officer into the patrol car.”
However, it is not clear from the video if the child “lunged” at the officer, as the police footage does not capture the moment immediately after the child is seen jumping. The video also does not show the officer catching the child midair or the officer and child falling on the patrol car together.
Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News that the boy lunged at the officer whose bodycam was recording the incident.
The second officer was with the suspect near the second patrol car, several feet away from the first officer and the boy.
In the footage, only part of the boy’s head is visible on the patrol car. The officer with the body camera is heard yelling, “Don’t do that,” to which the boy quietly responds, “Ok.” The officer repeats, “Don’t you do that,” and the child replies, “Yes, sir.”
In the video, the officer with the body camera can be heard yelling at other family members to back away, while he is seen lifting the child — who is now quiet — and placing him on the ground.
Police described it as the child remaining “emotionally distraught.” They said he “continued with the outburst, at which time our officer placed him on the ground.”
While on the ground, the child begins screaming again and repeatedly says, “I’m sorry,” while the officer yells at him to “stop resisting.”
The child's family members crowd around the officer in protest, while the officer yells at them to “back away.”
The other officer who has put the suspect in the second patrol car joins his colleague, who is restraining the child.
In the Facebook video uploaded by the boy’s family member, the officer can be seen pinning the child’s arm to the ground. The officer tells the boy to “calm down.”
The child can be heard crying, “I don't want to go to jail,” while the officer assures him he is not going to go to jail.
The child then appears to respond to the officer’s requests to calm down. “Am I going to jail,” he asks the officer again.
The officer asks the child if he’s alright and if he’s “good” and then tells him that he’s going to let him stand up and “we’re going to have a conversation.”
“I don’t need you running around like that,” the officer tells the child.
In their press release, police said the officer tried 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.”
Police said the “officer began to console the child and helped him to understand what was happening to his father.”
In the video, the officer who restrained the child can be heard telling the other family members that the boy “attacked my officer” — even though the other officer was not nearby.
Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News that it was the officer’s “belief at the time that the young man ran into him in an attempt to move him out of the way to get at the second officer who had his dad in custody.”
A third person seen sitting in the passenger side of the patrol vehicle was a “civilian ride along,” Rodriguez said.
“What my daddy do?” the child screamed after being allowed to get back on his feet. “He didn’t do nothing.”
The officer tells the boy, “You need to be there for your dad, ok?” He then grants the boy’s plea to see his father in the patrol car.
The child takes his father’s cell phone and promises to call someone to “bail you out, daddy.”
The child then reaches into the car and puts his hand on his father’s head, telling him, “When you get out, daddy? I love you.”
Rodriguez appeared to defend the officers’ conduct on Tuesday, saying that “with this young man ... the way he was acting, the officer felt the only way he could get the situation under control was to place him on the ground.”
Rodriguez said that the child was never placed in handcuffs and that the officer was “simply trying to restrain him as he was acting out, flailing and kicking towards the officer.”
When asked to address the family’s accusations of the officers using excessive force with the child, Rodriguez said that the matter was under investigation but reiterated that the officers had not been placed on administrative leave.
“The determination from our command staff as they reviewed this, as they reviewed the body cam footage, as they reviewed the officers’ reports, as they reviewed the use of force, determined that being placed on administrative leave was not an appropriate course of action, at this time,” Rodriguez said.
“We fully believe that after watching the body cam footage and from the paperwork that we have, that [members of the community] will understand that there are two sides to this story,” Rodriguez told reporters Tuesday.
Rodriguez said that the officers would not have changed the way they handled the situation even if the child hypothetically had behavioral problems, because, “the situation they had in front of them, they had to get the situation under control.”