Shocking footage captured the moment a 12-year-old black boy Tashawn Bernard was handcuffed and hauled into a cop car after police mistook him for a suspect in a spate of car thefts.
Tashawn Bernard was taking out the trash on Thursday outside his home in Lansing, Michigan when he was confronted by a police officer brandishing a gun, who believed the boy was a thief who fled on foot earlier that day.
Officials say Tashawn matched the description of a suspect in neon green shorts and a white shirt, however, his family’s attorney reportedly disputed this and said he was wearing a grey shirt.
The video sparked a fierce backlash that led the town’s embarrassed police department and mayor to issue multiple statements of regret and explanation.
The Bernard family’s attorneys, Rico and Ayanna Neal, said the 12-year-old has been left so distressed by the ordeal he now ‘does not want to go outside… even to get the mail.’
The enraged father pleaded with cops to explain the mystifying arrest
Video of the arrest racked up over 3.5 million views in under a day after it was posted to TikTok, which opened with Tashawn already in cuffs moments after he dumped his trash in a large blue dumpster.
As the boy hangs his head and appears to exchange a few words with the officer, his father could be heard racing out of his home exclaiming: ‘I’m his dad.’
At a virtual press conference on Friday, Michael said he knew something was wrong when Tashawn was taking longer than usual to take the trash out, adding that by the time he made it outside the ‘police were standing around him.’
After watching his son perp-walked across the parking lot, Michael turned and put his head in his hands as the police appeared to explain the arrest.
While much of the footage is inaudible due to the distance it was filmed from, Michael could be heard raising his voice as the officers continued justifying the detention.
‘You always use that excuse man,’ he said, adding: ‘It doesn’t matter – once you’re black you match any description, bottom line’ he added.
While Michael continues pleading his son’s case, Tashawn is led away from his father and into a police vehicle while still in handcuffs.
At that moment, backup officers likely called during the prior chase arrive on the scene and a fleet of at least three extra police SUVs roll into the parking lot.
Michael also notices the arrest is being caught on film by an onlooker, leading him to stroll down the sidewalk towards them with his hands outstretched, proclaiming the incident to be ‘bulls***.’
‘They’re traumatizing my son,’ he continued, as the person behind the camera agrees that the arrest was ‘some wrong s***.’
‘All these cops for a teenage kid,’ adds another person behind the camera, at the same time Tashawn is eventually freed from the car and uncuffed by four officers crowded around him.
The boy appears to spend around a minute in conversation with the officers before he raced back to his dad on the sidewalk. When the officers slowly sauntered over, someone could be heard remarking ‘Now they are about to tell lies.’
Tashawn couldn’t even face the cops as he stood by his father in tears, while Michael beckoned the cops to hurry up so he could gather them around and berate them.
Bernard family say they are ‘exploring all legal options’ in the aftermath of the arrest, including ‘the possibility of filing a lawsuit,’ their lawyers said. They alleged that they have not received any additional information from the police besides what they have seen on social media.
The Lansing Police Department faced fierce backlash following the detention, in part due to public statements that were intended to explain the circumstances of the arrest.
Lansing police released two statements Friday, with the first sent out early in the morning sparking fury after it said the arrest was merely a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time.’
In a follow-up statement again explaining how police felt Tashawn was wearing similar clothes to a suspect, Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosobee defended the arrest as ‘respectful and professional.’
Authorities said the ‘unfortunate misunderstanding’ unfolded after a witness to a car theft ‘described a suspect as wearing neon shorts and a white shirt.’
‘A responding officer saw a subject matching this description and attempted to make contact but the subject fled and ran west into the nearby apartment complex,’ the first statement read.
‘A different officer was in the area and saw the young man pictured in the viral video wearing a very similar outfit and made contact with him. The initial officer was able to respond and clarify the young man in the video was not the suspect who fled earlier.
‘Once this information was obtained, the young man was released and officers continued to search the area. Community relations is a top priority for us as a department, from the top-down. Our hope is we can put this unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ behind us and continue to represent the community that we serve.’