KEY WEST, FLA. (WSVN) - The family of a boy in Key West is seeking legal action after newly released body camera video showed the then 8-year-old student being handcuffed by police officers at his elementary school.
According to Key West Police, the Dec. 14, 2018 incident took place after the student punched a teacher in the chest after refusing to sit properly in the school’s cafeteria.
“Do you know where you’re going? You’re going to jail, so you need to stand up and put your hands behind your back,” one of the officers is heard saying in the video.
The video was posted to Twitter by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, Sunday night.
“We want to know who thought this was appropriate,” said Crump. “Let that set in: an 8-year-old with a mugshot.”
He said the boy’s family is planning to sue, not only the officers but school officials, the Monroe County School District and the City of Key West.
Police said the incident began when a teacher and the student got into an argument because the child refused to sit properly at the cafeteria.
The bodycam video shows two officers searching the boy before one of them tries to place the boy in handcuffs.
“Your hands are too small. Keep your hands in front of you like this, OK?” the officer is heard telling the student.
After realizing the handcuffs were too big, the officers decided to walk the boy outside. An officer attempted to explain the situation to the crying child.
“This is very serious, OK? I hate that you put me in this position that I have to do this,” said the officer. “The thing about it is, you made a mistake, and now it’s time to learn from it and grow from it, right? Not repeat the same mistake again, OK?”
The boy was then booked on a felony battery charge at a juvenile justice facility in Key West. The charges were dropped after the family fought the matter in court.
“It’s about the police officers and the school officials and the district attorney’s office who all thought that this is the way you handle disabled persons, but this is the way you handle young children,” attorney Devin Jacob said.
The boy’s family said this should have never happened as the boy was diagnosed with a learning disability among other issues that were documented and said the school was aware of the child’s disabilities.
“I can tell, and I can feel, how scared my son was,” Bianca DiGennaro, the boy’s mother, said. “He has ADHD. He has a defiance disorder. It’s impossible to watch, and I would never want any other parent to have to watch a video like that.”
Crump said the boy is a special needs student and did not pose a threat to anyone.
“He simply was having a mental illness crisis because of his disabilities that had been well diagnosed,” he said. “Everybody at the school knew about his mental illness. He was on medication, but yet, the system still wanted to criminalize this little boy of color.”
The attorney said the child was placed 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.”
Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg said that based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed.
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