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Michigan police chief, mayor apologize after arrest video of 12-year-old boy goes viral

A TikTok video of Michigan police arresting a 12-year-old boy and putting him in handcuffs was an “unfortunate misunderstanding” that stemmed from the foot chase of a suspect wanted in a suspected vehicle theft.

The video led to three statements by Mayor of Lansing Andy Schor and local police by late Friday afternoon.

The video appears to show a young, Black male wearing neon yellow shorts and a white T-shirt being detained by a police officer outside an apartment complex. A man tells officers they are traumatizing his son and the male was put into a police vehicle before later being released to the man who said he was the individual’s father.

A video posted to TikTok account careyann372 has generated millions of views and posts throughout social media with users saying the boy was detained as he was throwing away garbage.

The video lasts just more than 4 minutes. It was not clear where in the city the video was taken.

Warning: Video contains the use of strong language.

“Kid taking out trash being harassed by police. Father defending his son. Wrong person,” the TikTok poster wrote on Thursday.

In a Zoom call with reporters on Friday night, lawyers for the family of Tashawn Bernard asked that police take down its Facebook post, saying the photo makes it appear as though the shirt Tashawn was wearing was white, when it actually was gray. The suspect police were looking for was wearing a white shirt, they said.

“It does not accurately reflect what Tashawn was wearing,” said Ayanna Neal of Grewal Law. “They need to take down the post.”

Lansing police posted an initial explanation on its social media accounts earlier Friday, followed late Friday afternoon by a statement from Police Chief Ellery Sosebee.

“On Thursday afternoon, our officers were investigating a string of Kia thefts, including a specific one reported on the 3600 block of W. Jolly Road with multiple suspects,” the first post on Facebook said. “A witness described a suspect as wearing neon shorts and a white shirt. A responding officer saw a subject matching this description and attempted to make contact but the subject fled and ran west in to the nearby apartment complex.

“A different officer was in the area and saw the young man pictured in the viral video wearing a very similar outfit and made contact with him. The initial officer was able to respond and clarify the young man in the video was not the suspect who fled earlier. Once this information was obtained, the young man was released and officers continued to search the area.

“We are including pictures of both individuals. We have blurred both photos to protect the identities of the subjects.”

A photo of the people involved was posted, blurred out, along with the statement.

Posts on X, formerly Twitter, expressed outrage over the video and the number of officers involved in the incident.

“Just a kid taking out the trash — America,” user Kenny Akers wrote.

“This city is paying 6 police officers to arrest a child for throwing out garbage,” user Frank Giugliano wrote.

“I hope someone gets ahold of the young man detained today while taking out the trash because he ‘fit the description’ and lift him up. He will need support around him,” Rob Thomas wrote in a Facebook post.

LPD said they hope to put the situation behind them.

“Community relations is a top priority for us as a department, from top-down,” the department wrote. “Our hope is we can put this unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ behind us and continue to represent the community that we serve.”

After 4 p.m., the department released a statement attributed to Sosebee.

“The officers of the Lansing Police Department are working very hard to address the recent car thefts plaguing our city. In doing so, yesterday officers detained a young man who was wearing similar clothing and in the same apartment complex as an accused car thief who fled from officers on foot. When the officer made initial contact, it was near a trash bin but was after he had disposed of any garbage. The young man was then released to his father when eliminated as the accused. The command officer on the scene made contact with the young man’s father and explained the situation and apologized for the misunderstanding. I have reviewed the incident and can confirm the officer who contacted and detained the young man was respectful and professional during his investigation.”

“It’s unfortunate that incidents like this occur but through communication and sharing of information, we can help people understand the whole story. We understand that something like this has an impact on all parties involved,” the statement read.

“As the Chief of Police, I want to apologize that this incident had such an effect on this young man and his family. I’m asking for the community to consider all the facts of the situation before making a judgment. The relationship with our community has been and will continue to be a top priority for the Lansing Police Department.”

And late Friday afternoon, Schor apologized to the 12-year-old and his family in a statement.

“The Lansing Police Department made a mistake in detaining the wrong person during a vehicle theft investigation,” Schor said in the statement. “The young man was wearing the exact same clothing as the suspect, however it was quickly confirmed he was not the suspect in question and he was released. I join Chief Sosebee in offering my apologies to the young man and to his family.”

“LPD is in contact with the family and providing resources and support for any trauma involved. Our officers do their absolute best to protect Lansing, but in this case a mistake was made and we own it and apologize to those affected. As Mayor, I once again offer my sincere apology to this young man.”

Attorneys for the family said Tashawn was taking out the trash at his home when he was approached by an officer holding a gun at his side. The boy was put in handcuffs and placed into the back of a police vehicle.

“Our client has been traumatized by this incident, so much so that young Tashawn does not want to go outside … even to get the mail,” attorney Rico Neal said.

“Instead to trying put the incident behind them, police should have apologized to Tashawn and considered how they can make the situation right.” the attorneys said.

Tashawn’s father, Michael Bernard, described looking outside and seeing his son in handcuffs. He said his son “should not have been subjected to this treatment.”

The attorneys said they were exploring “all legal options” for the family, including a possible lawsuit. The family wants to ensure that the same situation doesn’t happen to anyone else, they said.

Reporter Ken Palmer contributed to this report.

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