LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A video went viral after Lansing Police Department detained a 12-year-old boy Thursday while he was taking out the trash.
It turns out police had the wrong guy, but what you don’t see in the video is police pulling out a weapon.
Even though 12-year-old Tashawn Bernard’s outfit matched the suspect’s outfit police were looking for, a former assistant chief of police from Detroit said no guns should have been pulled out of a holster.
People have viewed a cell-phone video of the arrest on national platforms now, with more than 2 million views online.
“It’s hard, but we’re held to a higher standard,” said Steve Dolunt, who is retired and worked as an assistant chief in the Detroit Police Department for 31 years.
He said that in his experience, there are protocols most officers would follow in this case.
“You can cuff a juvenile temporarily, for your own safety,” Dolunt said. “Check the body for a weapon…but if he says, ‘Hey, I’m 12 years old,’ then you might want to uncuff him, verify his identity and his age and stuff, and then move on.”
Tashawn’s family spoke with 6 News last week. At the time police detained him, he was wearing neon shorts –just like a suspect who was possibly connected to several Kia thefts, who had run away from police earlier that day.
The family said that during Tashawn’s encounter, an officer took his gun out of the holster. Lansing Police Department admits that one of its officers pulled a “weapon.”
“Is this the individual I’m looking for? Do they pose a threat to me? Do they pose a threat to the surrounding area? I’m pointing my gun; I’d better think this is an intermediate threat. And if there’s not, there’s another violation,” Dolunt said.
The Bernard family is currently exploring legal options. Though he’s not a lawyer, Dolunt said he thinks they would have a good chance of winning a lawsuit.
“He’s 12! I don’t know if this kid’s the greatest kid in the world, or if he’s a troublemaker. But he’s gonna be traumatized,” said Dolunt. “He’s not gonna trust the police anymore, his friends aren’t gonna trust the police, the family is not gonna trust the police. And now the police are going to have to rebuild their trust in the community.”
Dolunt said that although it was an honest mistake in this case, he wants officers to keep one thing in mind: “‘I’m the police; I can do want I want’–no, you can’t. You can’t violate someone’s rights just because they upset you,” he said.
6 News reached to LPD, but we’re still waiting for a response.
So far, we don’t know whether police have caught the person they were looking for.