Laval Stephens is a 16-year-old sophomore who plays junior varsity basketball at Ben Lomond High School in Utah and last Friday, Jan. 20, he was handcuffed and detained after his game. Stephens said that he and his teammates were sitting on the opposing team’s side to watch the varsity game when a school administrator told him to move, ABC 4 reports. The teen said he was not alone in sitting on the opposing team’s side, but he was the only one asked to move. He added that he was targeted because of his skin color.
Stephens said he asked the official why he needed to move if he wasn’t doing anything wrong. “I was just asking, ‘Can you please give me a reason why I have to move? Is there anywhere in the rulebook that says I have to move?’” he said.
The 16-year-old said he obliged and was walking with his coach when he was approached by a deputy with the Utah County Sheriff’s Department. “When he told me to leave he said, ‘You have five minutes to get outside or you’re trespassing.’ So I went outside. I wasn’t being aggressive. I didn’t even touch him. He starts pushing me in the back and then said ‘You’re walking too slow.’ He grabbed me in the back and started pushing me out the door,” Stephens told ABC 4 when recounting the incident.
Stephens “didn’t want to get shot.” The student-athlete also said he “didn’t want to be a hashtag,” as he sees Black men “get shot everyday.”
His parents feel the situation should have been handled differently and are concerned about the lack of effort made to diffuse the incident. “He [police officer] didn’t diffuse it. He came in there like he was holding the school hostage. I’m very upset and I’m getting down to the bottom of it,” Stephens’ mother, LaTanya Stephens said.
His father, Vincent Stephens, added, “He immediately targeted my son, threw him on the ground, treated him like an animal, and radioed for backup like he was a criminal.”
Another Ben Lomond parent witnessed it all and began recording because he thought the situation wasn’t being handled properly. His wife, who was also in attendance at the game, said the incident escalated once the police officer became involved.
“The officer and the administrative person decided to insert themselves and escalate the situation that didn’t need to be. He was already going back with his coach. There was no problem,” she said. “This kid is not threatening, he doesn’t have a weapon, he’s not resisting, he’s not talking vulgarity, nothing!”
Stephens was not arrested, but he is traumatized. “I kind of feel humiliated. I just feel embarrassed at this point,” he said.
Utah County Sheriff’s is said to be investigating the incident, as is the school district.
“We are aware of the situation. Because the incident involves a student I cannot comment on any specifics. I am only able to say that administrators from both schools along with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office are working together to investigate this incident,” the Communications Director with Ogden School District said in a statement.