July 23, 2018

ACC Police Restrain 'Distraught' Boy After Dad Arrested

Two Athens-Clarke County police officers are under investigation after they restrained a young boy on the ground who was upset that his father had been arrested on domestic violence charges.

Police went to a house on Sartain Drive, off Winterville Road about a mile east of the airport, at about 6:30 p.m. Friday to arrest a man after his ex-girlfriend complained that he had choked her when she tried to leave his house earlier that day.

While the father was being arrested, a boy police identified as his son became what ACCPD spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez described as "extremely emotionally distraught."

On Sunday, a woman who said she is the boy's cousin posted a video on Facebook of two officers holding the boy—described as 10 by police and 7 or 9 by relatives—on the ground with his hands behind his back. The video quickly went viral, with 32,000 shares and nearly 1 million views as of Monday evening.

"If you don't know how to control no 9-year-old, you don't deserve a badge," the cousin, Ariel Collins, told WSB-TV.

ACCPD held a news conference Monday afternoon in response to the video and released one of the officers' body-camera footage after blurring out the boy's face to protect his privacy. Flagpole is also not identifying the father so as not to inadvertently identify the boy as well.

The body-camera video shows the boy frantically trying to stop officers from putting his father into a patrol car, and relatives trying to restrain him. At one point, the boy leapt through the air at one of the officers, knocking him into the car. That's when the officer pinned the boy on the ground. He told the boy to calm down, and when he agreed to comply, the officer let him up.

"We ask the public to take a step back here," Rodriguez said. "We fully believe that by watching the body-cam footage and reading the paperwork we have that they will understand that there are two sides to this story."

The two officers involved have not been identified. An internal affairs investigation is underway, but Rodriguez said that, after reviewing the tape, ACCPD command staff opted not to suspend the officers during the investigation.

"The officers have not been placed on administrative leave and are expected to return to full duty," he said.