Social media continues to shed light on issues of police brutality. In the last year, multiple videos taken by bystanders have spread on social media platforms depicting incidents in which police officials have abused their power. As a result, investigations into the actions of various police departments have been conducted. In the most recent case of a bystander capturing police brutality, a video went viral on social media for depicting an officer aiming his firearm at a child.
The video capturing an officer conducting a traffic stop has resulted in widespread criticism for the San Diego Police Department. While San Diego police insist the gun was never pointed at the child, the father of the child, the bystander who recorded the incident, and the released video footage all say and show otherwise. “From my perspective the officer was pointing a gun towards the child as he was exiting the vehicle,” the witness who captured the videos, who wishes to remain anonymous told the SanDiegoVille .
In the video, at least one officer can be seen with his gun drawn toward a vehicle as a driver is ordered to exit. Shortly after the driver exits a child in the passenger side can be seen exiting with his hands raised as an officer points his weapon. The driver in custody can also be heard asking officers: ”can you take that gun off of him, he’s 8 years old.”
“I witnessed the police officer on the motorcycle with his siren and lights on but the vehicle was already pulled over,” the witness said. “Both the driver’s side window and passenger side window were rolled down and the man and boy had their hands outside the window. As I walked by the vehicle I noticed the little boy in the passenger side with his hands outside the window. I turned around and started recording. The officer was pointing the gun at the car [and] used his other hand to direct me to keep walking. I stopped recording and called my lawyer friend who confirmed I had every right to keep recording. So I started recording again.”
The incident sheds light on the continued issue of racial profiling and police mistreating Black folks despite calls for reform. “My son had to use the bathroom and my shop is right up the street from where I was stopped,” the driver from the video explained, SanDiegoVille reported. He too wished to stay anonymous.
”I was just In Dad mode trying to get my kid to bathroom before he peed himself. I’ve been stopped by the police for speeding before but I’ve never been instructed out my car at gunpoint. My kid was crying in the car saying ‘dad I don’t want to die. are they gonna shoot us?’ At that point I just told him it would be ok and to keep calm I just wanted him to feel safe in that moment but there was no way I could guarantee his safety. I just gave it all to God and did what I was instructed to do so me and my son could walk away alive. I asked the officer multiple times to lower his weapon because my child was freaking out and I didn’t want him to think that my son was reaching for something and he get shot. It was pointed directly at him.”
Additionally, body camera footage of the incident reiterates that the father requested the officer multiple times to stop pointing the gun because his child was crying. The body camera footage was released by the department in an effort to “provide clarity” for what they called “misinformation,” NBC News reported. However, while the department believes the body footage depicts the officer not aiming his gun at the child, viewers still believe otherwise. According to the body camera footage, after the child was in custody officers then attempted to calm him down by explaining why guns were displayed.
“You know, your dad was driving really really fast. Did it feel like that to you? No? Ok,” the officer said. “Did you hear the siren behind you guys for a while? Yeah? Well, so, your dad was supposed to pull over when that siren was going and he didn’t for whatever reason.
“So we don’t know what’s going, and that’s why we had to pull the guns and stuff like that, because we don’t know who he is. We don’t know who you are. We don’t know who’s in the car. So that’s why, bud,” the officer continued. After the incident, a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team clinician consoled the visibly shaken and scared child.
Yet, despite the clear trauma the police department has inflicted on this child and his father, police officials continue to claim they were not aiming the gun at the child and conducted the stop because of the driver’s inability to immediately stop for officers. As a result, they argued the situation became a “high-risk vehicle stop.” High-risk stops are normally associated with drivers or passengers suspected of committing serious crimes.
“We receive training at the police academy to conduct a high-risk stop with our guns drawn,” Lieutenant Shawn Takeuchi, a spokesperson for the police department said. “Each officer is required to articulate facts as to why they are conducting a high-risk stop. In this incident, the facts were a vehicle traveling [sic] very excessively and not yielding to emergency lights and siren. … I will emphasize this point. The officer’s firearm was never pointed at the child. I am unable to confirm the age of the child.”
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, small protests and calls for the officer who held his gun to step down have taken place in light of the incident. Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee also called on the Police Department to review how officers treat children. “As we work to reimagine public safety in our city, we must normalize honestly acknowledging when trauma has been inflicted on our residents, which further erodes the fabric of trust within our communities of color,” Montgomery Steppe said in a statement. “My heart is heavy today, as we have seen trauma unfold for this child during a traffic stop.”