Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said that, if the boy had been charged, he would have been a convicted felon at age eight.
The family of a Florida child who was handcuffed and charged with a felony after hitting a teacher has announced a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Key West.
The lawsuit, writes USA Today, was filed Tuesday by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
Crump—who is also representing the family of George Floyd in litigation against the City of Minneapolis—recently uploaded video of the 2018 arrest to social media. The footage shows officers attempting to handcuff a crying boy, who was only eight years old at the time of the incident.
Crump claims that Key West police officers violated not only the boy’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but the Americans with Disabilities Act, too. Listed as defendants are the Monroe County School District, the City of Key West, a teacher, principal, assistant principal, superintendent, and the officers involved.
The lawsuit, adds USA Today, broadly alleges that the arresting officers employed excessive force in the arrest; it also claims that other officers, along with school officials, failed to appropriately intervene.
“We’re here because some authorities in the school and within the police department in Key West, Florida, felt that it was appropriate to arrest and charge an 8-year-old child who was 64 pounds, 3.5 feet tall with a felony because he was having a mental illness crisis,” Crump said in a Tuesday press conference.
The boy, explains the Miami Herald, had been involved in a minor altercation. A substitute teacher was, purportedly, concerned that the way in which the boy was sitting during lunch could lead to a fall and injury.
While the teacher repeatedly asked the boy to adjust himself, he refused. Eventually, the teacher asked him to sit next to her.
He again refused, then slapped or punched the teacher once.
The substitute—who was purportedly unaware that the boy had been diagnosed with several severe mental health disorders, including ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder—relayed the incident to police, who were summoned to the school.
When law enforcement officers arrived, one scolded the boy, saying he “hated” that he was put in the position of having to take the child into custody.
“You understand this is very serious, okay? I hate that you put me in this position, that I have to do this,” he said. “The thing about you is you made a mistake and now it’s time to learn from it and grow from it, right? Not repeat the same mistake again.”
Footage of the arrest shows one officer patting the boy down before informing him that he is going to jail. As that officer struggles to fit handcuffs to the child’s wrists, another officer tells the restraints are not “worth” the effort.
Other officers appear to have disagreed with the initial decision to cuff the boy.
Nevertheless, the child was booked into a detention center, where he was fingerprinted and had a mugshot taken. Police also collected a sample of his DNA. He was then charged with felony battery; Crump says the city attorney “zealously” pursued the charges, which were dismissed only in 2019.
Somewhat problematically, Key West Chief Sean T. Brandenburg defended his officers, saying on Monday that they followed all proper procedures.
“Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” he said.
On Tuesday, Crump said his client’s arrest is indicative of deeply ingrained failures within the United States’ criminal justice system.
“This is a heartbreaking example of how our educational and policing systems train children to be criminals by treating them like criminals,” Crump said. “If convicted, the boy in this case would have been a convicted felon at eight years old. This little boy was failed by everyone that played a part in this horrific incident.”