ATHENS, Ga. — Athens-Clarke County police have explained the circumstances behind a viral video of two of its officers restraining a 9-year-old boy.
“We have been made aware of a video that is making its way around social media involving two of our officers,” police said Monday on Facebook.
In a statement Monday, police said the incident happened Friday when officers responded to a domestic violence call.
After the man was in custody, “the suspect’s 10-year-old child became extremely emotionally distraught,” police spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez said in the statement. (Family members later said the boy is actually 9 years old)
As an officer walked the suspect to his patrol car, the child attempted to block his path and had to be removed and restrained by adult family members, police said.
“As the suspect was being placed in the back of the patrol car, the video clearly shows the child run past family members and again ran towards our officer and lunged at one of the officers,” Rodriguez said. “Our officer caught the child in midair and the momentum of the child launching himself caused the both of them to land on the patrol car.”
The child continued with the outburst, at which time the officer placed him on the ground, according to the statement. The officer told the child he was not under arrest and that he would let him up if he would remain calm.
The officer allowed the child to get up when he felt he had calmed down, police said.
“Our officer began to console the child and helped him to understand what was happening to his father,” Rodriguez said. “The child asked to speak with his father and was allowed to do so by our officers.”
The department encouraged the public to watch the entire video before passing judgement.
The boy's family members don't agree with the way police handled the situation.
"If you don't know how to control no 9-year-old, you don't deserve a badge," cousin Ariel Collins said.
Collins posted the original video of the incident on Facebook. It has been shared more than 19,000 times since it was posted Sunday.
The video shows that both officers held the boy down at one point and had a pair of handcuffs out. However, the boy was never handcuffed.
The family says the boy's father is his only legal guardian.
They said the boy went to the emergency room to treat scrapes and bruises from the incident.
The boy's grandfather believes the officers should face disciplinary action.
"Don't fire them. Suspend them at least 30 days and give them something to think about," grandfather Harry Jones said.
The department says the officers handled the situation as best they could given the circumstances and an internal review is being done while the officers are on duty.
"We fully believe after watching the body cam video that and from the paperwork that we have, that they will fully understand that there are two sides to a story and the officers had what they had in front of them and had to deal with what they had to deal with in front of them," Rodriguez said.
Cox Media Group