Grand Rapids, MI – The Grand Rapids police chief defended his officers for putting a 12-year-old girl in handcuffs while they were responding to a call about a shooting on Oct. 9 (video below).
Officers were responding to a 911 caller’s report about a neighbor being shot when the incident occurred, WDIV reported.
“Somebody shot one of my neighbors. There was a lady – she came out her house – she said ‘no, no, don’t do it! Don’t shoot me!’ and then shots rang out. She came out her front door and somebody shot her,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher on a recording Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky played for reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
The caller told police that her daughter, who was watching from an upstairs window, had seen somebody shoot a woman three times as she begged for her life, WOOD reported.
Police were given a detailed description of a home on Batavia Place NE near Fulton Street where the witness said the shooting had happened.
When officers responded to the address provided by the caller, they ordered the family inside the home to come out.
Rennae Wooten claimed that police pointed guns at her children and handcuffed her 12-year-old daughter in the process of clearing their home, WOOD reported.
Chief Rahinsky released bodycam video of the incident on Oct. 16 and defended his officer’s response to the reported shooting.
“Officers showed compassion, they showed good judgment, the individual, the 12-year-old who was handcuffed was handcuffed for a minute and change,” the chief explained to reporters after he showed them bodycam from one of the officers on the scene.
“The tone of the officer, I think was appropriate. Officers did as they were trained to do, which puts themselves and the individuals they are dealing with in the best possible position in terms of officer safety and community safety," he said.
The bodycam showed the girl complying with police instructions to walk backwards, kneel, and put her hands behind her back.
The young woman in tennis shoes knelt on the pavement while an officer placed her in handcuffs, the video showed.
“Alright, I’m going to help you stand up, alright? You’re alright. You got no weapons on you or anything like that?” the officer spoke calmly and kindly to the 12-year-old girl in the video.
When the girl said she was only 12, the officer told her they would quickly search her and take the handcuffs off.
The reported shooting turned out to be fake, and police quickly released the family, WOOD reported.
But the girl’s mother said the brief incident left her daughter shaken and said she had been unable to return to school since it happened.
Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack weighed in on what he said he believed was a racial incident on his Facebook page, and criticized the police for their response.
"They were walked out backwards with their hands up. It has to stop somewhere. I do look at it as stupidity. It's like, you're dealing with a child," Womack complained.
But Chief Rahinsky took umbrage at Womack’s characterization of what occurred.
"I think he does a disservice to both the community and the Police Department,” the chief said. “Some of these issues transcend race. This didn't need to be a racialized issue."
"This response would be the same at any zip code in this city. It would be the same if it was my house, yours, or Commissioner Womack's, based on the limited information we had, the danger involved both to the officers involved and the members of the community," Chief Rahinsky told reporters.
The commissioner announced on social media that he had organized an “All Kids Matter” march in front of Grand Rapids police headquarters on Sunday, according to WDIV.
You can see the officer’s bodycam in the video below: