'Way past child abuse': Family awarded $275K after cops handcuff and yell at five-year-old boy for running from school
In a highly distressing video, the cops are seen dragging the child and putting him on a chair while he cries in pain and hiccups
SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND: Two police officers were reportedly suspended without pay over their treatment of a five-year-old boy who fled his elementary school, calling the child a "shepherd of the devil" and threatening with a beating. Now, his parents have been awarded a handsome settlement in court.
The details of an internal investigation at the Montgomery County Police Department emerged after the district paid out $275,000 in a settlement following the incident at East Silver Spring Elementary School in Maryland. Police bodycam footage showed officers Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon holding down the distraught child to a chair and telling him "I hope your momma let me beat you."
The video footage showed one of the officers putting handcuffs around the child's right wrist. "When you get older, when you want to make your own decisions, you know what's going to be your best friend?" one officer asks the crying boy. "These right here. You know what these are? These are handcuffs. You know what they're for? You know what these are for? These are for people that don't want to listen and don't know how to act." The Washington Post reported how Holliday was suspended for four weeks and Christmon was suspended for two following the probe. The settlement amount will reportedly go to a trust fund that the child will gain access to once he's 18. Both officers defended their actions, with Christmon saying, "I really do think that my actions were appropriate at the time." Holliday admitted she yelled at the child and called him a "shepherd for the devil," but also said that's how he was behaving.
Montgomery County reached a settlement in a lawsuit stemming from an encounter between two police officers and a 5-year-old boy at East Silver Spring Elementary School more than 2.5 years ago. https://t.co/r8GdtAWYNs— WUSA9 (@wusa9) August 29, 2022
The incident took place on January 4, 2020, when the child became upset in his kindergarten class and threw a clipboard at a fellow student and teacher before fleeing the school. The boy was found by the officers about one block from East Silver Spring Elementary School. Christmon got a hold of the boy's arm and pulled him towards other officers and police vehicles, while the child screamed "no" and "I don't wanna go." Christmon said his actions were justified considering the child "seemed defiant and headstrong about not wanting to return to school." The officers, however, told the boy "you don't make that decision for yourself" and returned him to the school in a patrol car, where they were met by a school administrator. Bodycam footage shows one of the officers forcing the child onto a chair in the principal's office. "Shut that noise up now!" Holliday yelled at the boy, adding, "I hope your momma let me beat you."
Matthew Bennett and James Papirmeister, lawyers representing the boy's mother Shanta Grant, said the clip showed officers treating her son "as if he were a hardened criminal." They claimed the manner in which they treated the child was "way past the line of emotional child abuse." Bennett added, "I've been doing police misconduct cases for 25 years and every case is different, but I don't recall ever having a case with a 5-year-old who was treated like this." At one point in the footage, Grant is seen undressing her ward to show the officers that she doesn't beat him and he wasn't being "physically abused." She tells them, "I'm not losing my child to the system and I'm not going to prison." However, one of the officers responds, "You don't go to prison for beating your child."
The school system issued a statement saying the footage was "extremely difficult" to watch. "There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way," the statement said. "As parents and grandparents, we know that when families send their children to school, they expect that the staff will care for them, keep them safe and use appropriate intervention processes when needed." Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando said the video made him "sick." He added, "We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the seat of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer´s lungs, inches from his face. This is violence."
If you or anyone you know suspects child abuse, you are urged to immediately call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential and the hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.