I recently shared a post about my seventeen year old son who was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being detained for a crime he didn’t commit and being with a group of friends who were all guilty of walking while black! If you missed that post, you can read Durham: Racial Profiling Much? #BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter
Below is a recollection of my son’s encounter with the Durham Police Department in his own words. He will also be sharing his story with the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of African American Children.
It started out like any other Friday at school, mostly boring, school work, laughing, the usual teenage high school student’s day. The only thing me and my friends were really looking forward to was a concert after school hosted by a local hip hop artist we met at the skate park a few weeks ago. The bell rang and school was let out at 3:45 and by 4:00 me and a group of friends met at the tree in front of the math and science building like we do everyday. The concert doors were scheduled to open at 8:00 pm and it was supposed to start at 9:00. We had lots of time to spare in between so we thought “why not go to the mall and get some food then chill at guitar center before the show”. The plan was solid so we each called our parents and asked permission to follow through with our plans for the evening. After the calls were settled we set off for the Mall. One of my friends went to the other side of the street because we would all have to cross at the end of the road anyway. I usually always record with whatever device I’m on at the time so we can look back and laugh at the funny things that happen that day, but to preserve battery life I put the phones brightness on low and was about two seconds from changing to a new song when another one of my friends decided to cross the street. Still laughing and joking a third friend tries to follow close behind but decides not to because a cop car was speeding down the street. As soon as my friend steps foot on the other side of the sidewalk the car immediately turns on the flashing lights and slams on the breaks until the car came to a complete stop.
Still walking and looking at the car with confusion the two cops open the doors with guns drawn yelling “Drop everything”, “Get on the effing ground now”, and “Not to effing move!”. Trying to react as fast as possible we all dropped to the ground and everything went silent for about two seconds. Looking to my left I saw one of my best friends on the ground with his arms out and his head up trying to see my other two friends at the other end of the street. To my right I saw another two friends, one being handcuffed and the other with a gun pointed at his back. The group of friends I was with that day are like brothers to me so as soon as I saw the gun I constantly started asking “What did we do? What’s this for?” Standing over the friend closest to me the cop replies “Don’t effing talk”. Trying to hold back tears I closed my eyes and asked myself over and over if this was actually happening, one minute we were all laughing and the next all six of us were on the ground. The cop closest to me, still standing over my friend with the gun at his back calls for backup. About five minutes later another two cop cars show up and I hear more clicking to my left. Realizing that I was next I asked if they would please get my phone.
The cop turns the phone over and seeing the cracks my heart drops. A four day old phone gone. I instantly thought about my mom and what her reaction would be. The cop slips the shattered phone into my pocket and walks me to a squad car and seats me in the back with one of my friends. I’m telling him how my phone was cracked and we talked about how fast this all happened and managed to laugh a little to try and ease our minds. We sat in the squad car for about thirty minutes until finally an officer came and our voices were silent again. The officer starts asking us questions about where we were headed and asking if we knew why we were here. Confusion on both me and my friends faces because the only two things we did were walk and cross the street. He asks questions about where we live, our full names and numbers putting them into his laptop in the front of the car. He leaves the car and the cop goes back outside to talk with other officers. Observing our surroundings we counted six cop cars and on the sidewalk we see one of my friends, eyes red, being questioned, and another friend getting his picture taken leaning on the side of a squad car.
We waited and talked some more, now calmer than before, observing the cop car. We saw a camera and a microphone and realized we were being filmed and heard. Not caring to much about it we talked to the camera telling people that would probably see the video to “Never cross the street” and laughed a little more. Two cops come back and move me and my friend into another squad car so he could leave and telling us that the next officer will tell us why we were detained. The next officer enters the car and shares the information with us. “There was a call about a break in in progress and you group of boys fit the description.
The first thing I thought about was “Why couldn’t I have been filming from the time we left campus?” Not soon after the officer calls a friend and they remove us from the car and tell us to “Lean against the side of the car and look into the camera”. The officer snaps the picture and about ten minutes later they take the handcuffs off of me and my friends after the eye witnesses of the break in tell them that we were not the same group of boys. They let us regroup with our friends and we listen as they talk with the cops about the break in saying that “We fit the description” and that “They wore the exact same clothes you guys were wearing”. Hearing this sounded really odd to me because the definition of “Exact” is “Strictly precise, or correct”.
Tuning the voices out, I pulled the shattered glassed phone from my pocket at sat in silence. Straying away from the cops we formed our own group and talked just as the officers did. About a second later an officer says “Ok, you boys can go back to whatever you were doing” and half of my group start walking away. As the cop turns to head back to the rest of the officers I ask about fixing my phone. The cop replies “We can put it on the report, but we can’t fix your phone”. The cops each disperse into their cars and the rest regroup with our friends to head to the mall. I feel like this event was extremely upsetting for all of us because we feel that we were just the first group of boys that they saw speeding down a street, not to mention that all of the cops were Caucasian which is also a topper to the story because we are all African American males.
The next day we were approached by teachers and students who either saw the event take place or heard from friends. Even one of our teachers told us that he got at least six emails saying “I’m pretty sure some of your students were arrested”. This was a violation of the 4th amendment for unreasonable searches and seizures and also didn’t have a probable cause. No one was hurt by the event, but all six of us were completely shaken. We didn’t do anything wrong, had smiles on our faces and laughed from the school campus to the block we were detained on. I’m still trying to make sense of it all!
To Be Continued…