The 2018 arrest of an 8-year-old boy in Florida was receiving scrutiny Monday after video of officers trying to handcuff the child was posted online.
Body camera footage of the arrest was shared late Sunday night by the attorney Benjamin Crump on Twitter and had been viewed more than 1.1 million times by Monday. Crump said in a press release Monday that he was retained by the boy’s mother, Bianca N. Digennaro.
The attorney said the boy was a special needs student with an individualized education plan due to his disabilities.
“Instead of honoring and fulfilling that plan, the school placed him with a substitute teacher who had no awareness or concern about his needs and who escalated the situation by using her hands to forcibly move him,” Crump’s statement said. “When he acted out, the teacher called the police, who threatened him with jail and tried to put him in handcuffs, which fell off because he was too little.”
Crump added that the incident was an example of how the education and policing systems “train children to be criminals by treating them like criminals.”
The short clip posted Sunday night by Crump showed officers discussing that the boy’s hands were too small for handcuffs. The officers stopped their attempts to handcuff him and instead asked him to keep his hands in front of him as he walked out of the school.
At one point, one the officers spoke to the child about his actions.
“I hate that you had to put me into this position to do this,” the officer said. “The thing about it is, you made a mistake. Now it’s time for you to learn about it and to grow from it, not repeat the same mistake again.”
A woman also appears briefly in the video but her involvement is unclear.
The boy, who is not identified because he is a juvenile, was arrested on Dec. 14, 2018, after hitting a teacher at Gerald Adams Elementary, according to an arrest report. The teacher asked the boy to “sit properly” in his bench seat while she was supervising the lunch room and he repeatedly refused.
She then asked the boy to sit by her instead and he refused, the arrest report said. When the teacher went over to the boy with the intent to escort him to where she was sitting, he allegedly stated “don’t put your hands on me” and cursed at her.
The boy then allegedly punched her in the chest, the arrest report said. The boy’s parents were contacted and the child was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center.
“Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg said in a brief statement.
Key West Police Public Information Officer Alyson Crean confirmed that the department is not in any litigation regarding the incident and is not aware of how Crump obtained the video. She said that the department is unable to release the full incident video because the subject of the video is a juvenile.
The status of the boy’s criminal case is unclear and the police report does not mention his special needs status.
Twitter users responded to Crump’s post criticizing both the officers and school staff for involving the police in the young boy’s incident.
“Sickening! So many people at fault here. SMH.,” one user responded. “What happened to guidance counselors, social workers, and behavior therapists??? Why police??? An eight year old baby with special needs??? Abusive language “sorry, but you made me have to do this to you”. Yeah, blame the kid, huh?”
A spokeswoman for Monroe County School District declined to comment on the incident in case it became a legal matter but confirmed that the district was not currently in litigation over the child’s arrest.