The boy, who is Black, was wearing a T-shirt and neon shorts — clothing that police said matched the description of a suspect. Video posted online shows the handcuffed boy being taken to a police vehicle while his father asks an officer why his son had been placed in handcuffs.
The bystander’s video was viewed more than 5 million times and led community members to condemn the Lansing Police Department for its handling of the situation.
The boy was traumatized by the incident and no longer wants to go outside, attorneys for his family said, according to the Associated Press.
The police department issued a statement on Friday, describing the boy’s handcuffing as an “unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time.’ ” The department also shared blurred images of the boy and the suspect, describing their outfits as “very similar.”
Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee issued an apology to the boy and his family later that same day.
“It’s unfortunate that incidents like this occur, but through communication and sharing of information, we can help people understand the whole story,” Sosebee said. “We understand that something like this has an impact on all parties involved.”
On Thursday afternoon, officers were investigating multiple car thefts outside an apartment complex, and a witness to one of the incidents said they saw someone wearing neon shorts and a white shirt, police said.
An officer saw a person who matched that description, but the person fled, according to police. Then, another officer who was in the area saw the preteen, who police said was wearing a similar outfit, in the same apartment complex, the statement adds. The officer approached the boy with his gun unholstered and held in front of him, attorneys for the boy’s family said, according to the Associated Press.
Michael Bernard, the boy’s father, told CBS News that he went outside to check on his son after he did not return from taking out the trash. That’s when he saw that his son had been handcuffed by police, he said.
“I rushed out and asked the cop, ‘What’s the problem, why do you have my son in cuffs?’” Bernard told CBS.
Police said the boy was released once the officer realized he was not the suspect who had fled earlier. Video shows the boy was with police for about four minutes before an officer walked him to where his father stood on a sidewalk outside the apartment complex.
Bernard told CBS that his son was “stunned” by the incident: “He’s like, ‘What have I done?’”
Once the boy was released, an officer at the scene explained the situation to Bernard and “apologized for the misunderstanding,” Sosebee said in his statement.
“I have reviewed the incident and can confirm the officer who contacted and detained the young man was respectful and professional during his investigation,” the police chief added.
The department has not announced any arrests in the string of stolen vehicles.
The Bernard family is considering taking legal action against the Lansing Police Department, according to their attorneys.