River Rouge, MI — What should have been a warning to a new teen driver who just made her first poor decision behind the wheel morphed into an assault with nearly deadly results after cops treated a group of small kids like hardened criminals.
In February, 17-year-old Maliyah Clary had permission to be driving her mother's car and had the permit to do so. However, she allegedly made a few driving errors a couple of blocks away from her house so officers with the River Rouge Police Department targeted her for a traffic stop.
Body camera footage released this week shows what happens when a cop's only tool is a hammer — everything, even 105-pound children — begin to look like a nail.
It was a routine traffic stop that morphed into a use of force incident after the officers became unreasonably fearful of three teenage girls in their mother's car. Instead of simply allowing the girl to go get her mother, who was just two blocks away, the officers decided to drag the small child from the car, grabbing her by her hair in the process.
"They snatched her out by her hair," Michael Fortner, the family's attorney said. "This girl weighs 105 pounds, if that, soaking wet. You've got 250-pound officers beating up on a 17-year-old weighing 105 pounds."
"I wasn’t understanding why they were asking me to get out of the car," Clary said. "So I was trying to ask them, why, what’s wrong? But they just grabbed me out of the car."
After the two 250-pound cops assaulted the small child, one of them decided to pull his gun on the other two children still inside the vehicle, Maliyah’s 14- and 15-year-old cousins.
"I thought he was going to shoot us because we tried to get out the car," Clary's cousin Nevaeh Anderson said.
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Instead of issuing Clary a warning, like most cops would have done, Clary was arrested and charged with reckless driving, resisting arrest, and disobeying a stop sign.
The department said they have since opened an inquiry into the matter but stated the officers were never disciplined because the family never filed a complaint. Holding innocent children at gunpoint should not need a complaint behind it to issue discipline, however. The family's attorney agrees.
"Why do you need the family to complain when you see officers mistreating kids like this," Fortner said. "These are babies."
FOX 2, who first reported on the video, reached out to several police experts to get their take on the situation. Steve Dolunt, a retired assistant police chief from the Detroit Police Department, pointed out the completely unnecessary escalation of force by these cops. He agrees with our take that the girl should've been given a warning and her mother called.
"Ok, 'So let me see your permit, here's the deal - everyone step out of the car,'" he said. "'Do you have any contraband, any weapons in the car. Where do you live? Two blocks away? Leave the car here, go get your mother, have her get the car. This is a warning.'"
Law enforcement trainer Darnell Blackburn also weighed in and said just because the cops are legally allowed to use the force in the video below, there was no reason to do so.
"I think the point of it is, that just because something is justified, doesn’t make it just," Blackburn said. "Did he have every reason to do everything he did? Absolutely, he had a reason as an officer, but it doesn’t necessarily make it just."