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Michigan police detained a Black child who was in the ‘wrong place, wrong time,’ department says

This image from video shows the family of Tashawn Bernard, a 12-year-old who was handcuffed by a police officer on Thursday, in what the Lansing (Mich.) Police Department described as an “unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time,’” speaks during a virtual press conference with their lawyers, Ayanna and Rico Neal, left, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A white police officer handcuffed a Black child outside his Michigan home in an “unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time,’” the Lansing Police Department said Friday.

The department posted the explanation on Facebook after cellphone video circulated on social media showing the officer leading the boy — whose hands are cuffed behind his back — through the parking lot of an apartment complex on Thursday. The officer had been searching for a suspect in a string of car thefts when he spotted the child.

The boy was identified as 12-year-old Tashawn Bernard during a Friday news conference held by his family and their lawyers. Tashawn was taking trash out to the Dumpster when he was approached by an officer that had his “gun unholstered and was holding it in front of him,” according to a lawyer representing the family.

About three minutes into the video of the incident, an officer removed the handcuffs and spoke with Tashawn for about 30 seconds. Tashawn was then allowed to join his father on the sidewalk.

Michael Bernard, Tashawn’s father, said he could sense something was wrong when his son was taking longer than usual to bring out the trash. When he went outside, he said, his son “had cuffs on and police were standing around him.”

The Bernard family’s lawyers, Ayanna and Rico Neal, said Tashawn is “traumatized” so much that he “doesn’t not want to go outside anymore.”

Officials wanted to “provide some background information on this unfortunate misunderstanding,” police said Friday.

A witness had described the suspect’s outfit before a person who matched the description ran from an officer into an apartment complex, police said. Another officer saw the child in “a very similar outfit,” stopped him and released him when the officer realized he was not the suspect, police said.

Lawyers for the Bernard family say they have not received any additional details from police other than what was shared on social media. The family is “exploring all legal options,” including “the possibility of filing a lawsuit,” lawyers said.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, police have launched an internal investigation after another video posted to social media appears to show one of their officers on July 20 punching a Black man the officer mistakenly thought was involved in a hit-and-run crash.

Police said witnesses told them two men and a woman carrying a child fled toward an Applebee’s restaurant. A restaurant employee directed officers toward a man holding a baby. Police then discovered the people responsible for the crash hiding in the restaurant’s bathroom.