Athens, GA — A dramatic video was uploaded to Facebook this week showing two police officers restraining a small boy in Athens over the weekend. The video quickly went viral which prompted police to respond and release body camera footage of the entire scenario.
The incident happened Friday as officers were called out to the home of Jawoski Mandell Collins. During Collins' arrest, the “child became extremely emotionally distraught,” Athens-Clarke County police spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez said in a statement.
The original video posted to Facebook did not show what happened before the child was restrained. However, the body camera video appears to show it all.
As police were taking Collins — who is apparently the boy's father — into custody, the young boy began to break down at the thought of his "daddy going to jail."
At one point, an adult female on the scene picked up the boy and brought him away from the officers as he tried to block their path while placing Collins in the cruiser.
As the incident unfolded, the boy became more distraught and, as the body camera footage shows, he ran toward the officers. It is at this point that the dispute arises over how police reacted to the incident.
According to family members, when the boy ran toward police, he was thrown into the car and then slammed into the ground and held down by the officers. According to police, however, the boy running at the officer caused the officer to fall into the patrol car.
On Monday, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department released the following statement, describing the scenario:
As the suspect was being placed in the back of the patrol car, the video clearly shows the child run pass family members and again ran towards our officer and lunged at one of the officers. Our officer caught the child in mid-air and the momentum of the child launching himself caused the both of them to land on the patrol car. The child continued to be emotionally distraught, and continued with the outburst, at which time our officer placed him on the ground. While on the ground, the officer continued to attempt to de-escalate the situation, assuring the child that he was not under arrest and that he would let him up if he would remain calm. Once the officer believed the child had calmed down, he allowed him to return to his feet.
As the video shows, the boy was still crying and upset when he was lifted back up by police. What's more, even though police were originally trying to put handcuffs on the child, they made the wise decision not to do so, which certainly helped to calm the situation down.
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After the boy showed he could be calm enough to do so, police then allowed him to talk to his father. According to the statement:
The child continued to be emotionally distraught but was not resistant towards our officers. Our officer began to console the child and helped him to understand what was happening to his father. The child asked to speak with his father and was allowed to do so by our officers.
This very emotional moment of the boy telling his father goodbye was clearly captured on the officer's body camera.
The subsequent release of the videos has led to quite the debate online about the officers' use of force and de-escalation techniques.
"I do not see justification for the amount of force used. I see the kid jump, there is a slight jolt to the camera - then you see the kid being held against the car - then you see him being lifted by his arms behind his back and bodyslammed face first into the ground. This is a child. I don't see how all of these people are justifying treating a child like that when there is so much training available for officers to learn legitimate de-escalation techniques when dealing with children. I am sad for our community," Anna Merie Bennett wrote on Facebook.
Others agreed with the officers' use of force. "I think the officer did the best he could . He did not harm the child. He simply got him under control when he charged the officer. All those adults standing around didn’t bother restraining or try to control the child. So the officer had to. That’s on them," wrote Michelle Mann-Harvey.
As for Collins, he was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment, according to the incident report. As the AJC reports, the woman who contacted authorities said she went to see Collins to borrow money, police said. When he asked her to spend some time with him, she said she needed to go back to her children. Police said he then became upset and placed her in what she said was a choke hold.
Police Chief Scott Freeman said that he ordered an internal investigation into the officers but neither of them have been placed on administrative leave.
What do you think? Was the use of force by these officers against the small boy justified or did they go to far? Let us know in the comments below.
Below is the original video posted to Facebook.