An elementary school called the police on an 8-year-old special needs child. Bodycam footage shows the officers pulling out handcuffs and arresting the crying boy for a felony before escorting him to a police cruiser.
The Key West Police Department has found itself embroiled in a controversy after bodycam footage was released of several officers arresting a small boy. The incident occurred at Gerald Adams Elementary and involved an altercation between the child and his teacher.
The Miami Herald reports police were called out to the primary school after an 8-year-old special needs student allegedly punched his female teacher in the chest. According to the arrest records, the confrontation began when the child refused to sit in his seat in the cafeteria, prompting his teacher to sit next to him in an effort to keep him from possibly falling out of his chair. The boy then warned the teacher, “Don’t put your hands on me.”
When the teacher attempted to get the child to walk with her to the principal’s office, he allegedly told her, “My mom is going to beat your a–” before striking the woman in the chest. It was then that Officer Michael Malgrat, who was in the school’s administrative office when the pair arrived, was informed of the situation. He explained that the boy “had his hands clenched into fists and he was postured as if he was ready to fight.”
The bodycam footage shows one of the officers commanding the child to stand up and turn around, informing him that he’s “going to jail.” After patting down the boy, he attempts to handcuff the boy but abandons his efforts when he realizes that the child’s tiny wrists simply slip out of the cuffs. The video ends as the officers escort the child out of the school toward a police cruiser, later booking him at the juvenile justice facility in Key West.
The Monroe County State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the child and his mother, likely because of his age. However, the release of the bodycam footage sparked an expected backlash from the public, including Tallahassee civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
“Unbelievable!! @KWPOLICE used “scared straight” tactics on 8yo boy with special needs. He’s 3.5 ft tall and 64 lbs, but they thought it was appropriate to handcuff and transport him to an adult prison for processing!! He was so small the cuffs fell off his wrists!” Crump wrote on Twitter.
Along with retaining Crump, the boy’s mother hired Pennsylvania lawyer Devon Jacobs and vowed to file a federal lawsuit against the KWPD and the Monroe County School District.
“This is a heartbreaking example of how our educational and policing systems train children to be criminals by treating them like criminals,” Crump said in a statement. “If convicted, the child in this case would have been a convicted felon at eight years old. This little boy was failed by everyone who played a part in this horrific incident.”
Key West Police Chief Sean T. Bradenburg issued a statement following the release of the footage. He insisted that the officers were within the scope of their authority to arrest the boy and acted with decorum.
“Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” he said.
Likewise, the school released a statement to quell the uproar but clarified that it cannot comment on the case due to pending legal action.
“The District is not, and has not, been involved in litigation about this incident,” the emailed statement reads. “Due to the possibility of this matter becoming a legal issue in the future, we have been advised not to make further comment about the incident at this time.”
As disturbing as the video is, the police department stood by the officers involved, arguing that they followed protocol and did nothing wrong.
While it is difficult to watch any child escorted away by police officers, no one seems to be able to provide a good solution for situations involving violent children. Unfortunately, there have already been many wrong turns in the child’s life by the time the issue lands in the hands of a police officer.