Many community members of Clayton County, Georgia are expressing their outrage after a video went viral of teens being held at gunpoint by a police officer. Despite a statement from the police department, people are still demanding change within the force, saying the incident is not isolated.
The clip of the incident was shared to Instagram, and it starts with the officer already in the middle of stopping the teens. The caption for the video says that the teens were “shadow boxing” near a convenience store and then cut through the neighborhood where the police interaction apparently took place.
In the video, the teens stand in the grass with their hands over their heads facing an officer.
“Please, sir. They kids,” one person can be heard yelling off camera. “Don’t shoot….don’t shoot.”
“Why you got a gun out?” another person cries out.
“Because I’m being safe,” the officer responded.
A few minutes later the clip shows two officers patting the teens down. The cops then seem to talk to the group of teens, though it’s not audible what they said because of the distance of the camera. The teens were eventually let go but by the end of the video, but several more police cars and even a Clayton County Sheriff’s Office patrol car still arrives on the scene.
According to 11 Alive, the Clayton County Police Department went on to release a statement explaining what led to the viral encounter.
According to the two-page report, cops arrived on Flint River Road after reports of an armed person. They said the 911 caller reported three teens at a location who were stealing and waving a gun.
Cops said they later got another call saying the teens were now in the parking lot, playing with a gun and fighting. Once a description was given, the police statement said an officer began patrolling the area before stopping the group of teens that they said matched the description.
“Due to the allegation that the juveniles were in possession of a gun, the officer approached them with his duty weapon drawn and pointed at the juveniles,” the police said. “The officer lowered the weapon once the juveniles complied with the officer’s verbal commands to stop and show their hands.”
According to the cops, the officer started a “calm dialogue with the juveniles about why he was there and bystanders immediately began yelling and agitating the situation.” Police said once the teens were frisked no weapons were found.
When the officer went back to the store where the 911 call was placed and looked over the surveillance video, it showed the teens were playing and tossing what looked like a gun to each other. However, the group told the cops that it was a BB gun and they took the cop to the bushes where they tossed the item. The cop said it was indeed a BB gun.
The police report said the cop talked to the kids about the dangers of playing with a weapon, then their parents were called and the teens were released from the scene with no charges filed.
Despite the cops’ report, residents said more still needs to be done at fixing the department and many want the cop who pulled the gun to be fired.
“We’re saying, we would like to see revisions. And not just your revisions. We want you to give your community an opportunity to say, ‘this is how we want you to police us.’ I think that is the only thing that they can do as of right now,” said Shannelle, the woman who said she recorded the incident.
“What would have happened if the community didn’t show up and show out for them that day?…if one of those kids made the wrong move, what would have happened?” she questioned. “It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it and we’re asking Chief Kevin Roberts to make revisions now, and to hear from the community now, because we’re not going to accept this in our community.”
Shannelle also explained how the situation with the teens isn’t an “isolated incident.”
“When I posted that video yesterday so many people from Clayton County began (direct messaging) me saying, ‘that happened to me. I was innocent. I didn’t do anything.’ That’s the problem,” she said. “If there was no problem and the policing was great the community would not have feared in the way that they did and intervened in the way that they did. It’s history.”
Folks on social media expressed similar sentiments with Mary-Pat C. Hector, Youth Director of the National Action Network, tweeting, “For those asking, Clayton County DOES HAVE A POLICE ISSUE. You can say what you want, those boys did NOTHING ILLEGAL. What transpired on that video was one incident. However, everyone in GA knows ‘YOU DON’T WANT TO BE PULLED OVER IN CLAYTON COUNTY.'”
Rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris also showed up at a press conference expressing community concerns over the incident.
“Why don’t we ever see little white kids being held a gunpoint? Period. The constitution was written for all Americans except it seems like you only have to be a certain shade or a certain color to reap the benefits,” T.I. explained.
“Why are only people of color, young black boys, young black girls being gunned down at the hands of policemen and suing excuses like BB guns, water guns,” he continued. “There are little white boys that real rifles that go hunting every week with their grandparents and parents. They aren’t being held at gunpoint.”
A protest over the incident is scheduled for Wednesday.