Police Board rules against discipline for cops who cuffed, searched 10-year-old boy

Michael Thomas Jr. was handcuffed and searched by officers sent to the area near Roosevelt Road and Sawyer Avenue in June 2018 after someone called 911 to say a boy had a gun.

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A single member of the Chicago Police Board ruled Thursday night that no officers will face discipline for a 2018 incident in which a 10-year-old boy was handcuffed and searched for weapons on the hood of a squad car.

Michael Thomas Jr. was stopped by officers sent to the area near Roosevelt Road and Sawyer Avenue in June 2018 after someone called 911 to say a boy had a gun.

In cellphone video footage previously shared with NBC 5, a visibly terrified Thomas can be seen on the hood of a squad car with his hands cuffed behind his back as he’s searched by CPD officers.

The boy and his family insisted that officers had the wrong person, and during the search, the boy could be seen urinating in his pants, apparently out of fear.

Days later, the boy’s mother filed a federal lawsuit against the city and two officers involved. City and court records show the lawsuit was settled in 2019 for $18,000.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigated the boy’s brief detention and recommended that two officers, Anthony Spicuzza and Robert Garduno, each be suspended for 30 days.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, though, disagreed and recommended that Spicuzza and Garduno be found exonerated of any wrongdoing.

The differing opinions triggered a process in which a single member of the nine-person Police Board, chosen at random, would decide if any officers would face an evidentiary hearing.

At the board’s monthly meeting Thursday, board member John O’Malley agreed with Brown, halting any potential disciplinary proceedings against Spicuzza and Garduno.

After the board meeting, COPA’s chief administrator, Sydney Roberts, said in a statement: “While COPA values the member’s review and conclusion, it maintains that the officer’s prolonged restraint of this child — after he was searched, demonstrated he was not armed, could no longer present any threat and was experiencing emotional and physiological trauma — is unacceptable and in violation of CPD policy.”

In 2018, shortly after incident garnered media attention, former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson defended the officers’ actions as necessary and by-the-book.

“The call came out as a young man, 10 to 12 years old, that was passing out a gun, and the description fully matched the individual that they stopped,” Johnson said at the time.

“Keep in mind, this is difficult for an officer to tell right off the bat if you’re 10 years old, 12 years old [or] 14 …. So, they handcuffed the kid for safety reasons because he did match that description. They followed all the rules and protocols that we have in place. So I’m not concerned about that at all.”

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