Chicago police officers “followed all of the rules and protocols” when they handcuffed a ten-year-old boy in, what the family claims was a case of mistaken identity, but an internal investigation will be conducted to make certain of it, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Wednesday.
WMAQ-TV NBC-5 News reported this week that cellphone video of the Friday night incident showed officers handcuffing a frightened Michael Thomas Jr. after receiving calls about a boy between the ages of 10 and 12 dressed in blue and carrying a gun in the area.
Thomas was handcuffed after briefly running away when approached by police, officials said.
On Wednesday, Johnson defended his officers’ handling of the case after joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel at police headquarters to announce yet another crackdown against party buses.
“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.
“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.”
Still, Johnson sympathized with the boy’s family and said he has ordered an internal investigation to make doubly certain proper protocols were followed.
“I can only imagine the mother’s and grandmother’s anguish that that child had to go through that situation. So, we’re investigating it, just to ensure that everything was done properly,” the superintendent said.
The frightening incident was witnessed by the boy’s outraged grandmother.
“You can see that he doesn’t have any weapons on him,” a woman identified as the grandmother says on the cellphone video.
“I raised up my grandbaby’s shirt. He don’t have anything on him. Take those handcuffs off of him.”
The boy’s uncle confronted officers at the scene and is heard on the cellphone video demanding to know why his nephew was in handcuffs.
The boy’s mother, identified as Starr Ramsey, demanded an explanation from police after the traumatic, fifteen-minute incident.
“They need to apologize. He’s gonna be scarred for the rest of his life now,” the mother told NBC-5.
“Anything can happen. We might need him to call the police. And he’s gonna be too afraid to even call.”
Thomas, who is in fourth-grade, was traumatized.
“They put me in handcuffs. I was scared. I was crying,” Thomas told NBC-5.
“They told me I escaped from juvenile and I had a gun. I said I didn’t escape from juvenile and I don’t have a gun…They handcuffed the wrong person.”