Raleigh, NC – A mother of a six-year-old autistic child claimed officers pointed guns at her son and elderly parents while they were serving a warrant at their home, but the bodycam footage tells an entirely different story (video below).
The Raleigh Police Department (RPD) released bodycam footage on Feb. 15 from a search warrant served on Nov. 14, 2018, after a woman complained to the Raleigh City Council that the SWAT team had pointed rifles at her family.
Police searched the home located in the 3300-block of Friar Tuck Road because it was the last known address of Brian Lamonte Clark, who had robbed an AT&T store just three days prior, RPD explained in a press release.
They were also looking for evidence related to the armed robbery, police said.
LaDonna Clark told the City Council on Feb. 5 that after they pointed guns at her family, police forced them to sit outside in cold weather for an hour, the Charlotte News & Observer reported.
“On a 35-degree and rainy night, my son with autism was forced out of a home with military-style rifles aimed at him and made to sit on the cold, wet ground for well over an hour by [the police] SWAT [team],” LaDonna Clark complained.
But she wasn’t even there.
Her mother and father – Wanda and Michael Clark – were babysitting their grandson that evening, IndyWeek reported.
“Having guns pointed at a six-year-old was extremely frightening and completely unnecessary,” Wanda Clark wrote in a Nov. 19, 2018 complaint to RPD. “Even now, I still have nightmares about those guns being pointed at me and my grandson.”
LaDonna Clark asked RPD to investigate, but then refused to allow police to interview the family in person, IndyWeek reported.
Instead, she went to the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and City Councilman Corey Branch to complain.
ACLU policy counsel Susanna Birdsong told IndyWeek there was never a reason to point a rifle at a child, and called for an investigation.
“Especially when we are talking about an elderly couple and a six-year-old with special needs. Just thinking about the emotional and mental harm that has caused is really disturbing and is, unfortunately, just another example of unnecessary escalation by the police when what they should have been doing in that circumstance is deescalating,” Birdsong said.
Michael Clark also wrote a scathing complaint to the police department about his experience.
“I truly hope these unethical, dastardly, and antagonistic officers are disciplined, because the next innocent person may not be so blessed to not be killed,” he wrote.
Raleigh police investigated all of the Clarks’ allegations and responded by releasing all of the bodycam video footage from the scene that night, along with an explanation of what actually happened.
Nowhere in any of the videos can an officer be seen pointing a weapon at any of the Clark family members, including the child.
“While members of [SWAT team] did have rifles, they kept them pointed at the ground or away from people at all times while the Clarks were exiting and outside the home,” the release said.
The video showed that the police used an armored car to block the driveway of the home.
Then officers called the Clarks on the phone and explained why they were there, and asked everyone to come outside.
All of the officers were a good distance away, behind cover, as first Michael Clark, and then his wife and grandson, exited the home to police commands, RPD said in the release.
Officers can be heard telling them to walk backwards to them very faintly in the distance. In the video, no officers could be seen in close proximity to the house.
Also, the family had not been forced to sit outside in the cold for an hour, as LaDonna Clark alleged.
“Additionally, the footage from the body worn cameras shows that Mr. Michael Clark was outside for approximately 19 minutes and Mrs. Wanda Clark and their grandson were outside for approximately 13 minutes,” the police department said.
Police said Michael Clark left the house at 5:19 p.m. and the other two followed at 5:25 p.m.
Wanda Clark initially came out of the house right after her husband, but went back in to help her grandson get dressed, police said.
Bodycam video showed that as soon as officers has cleared the house, the family was allowed to go back inside and sit on the sofa while officers finished executing the search warrant.
“While we understand and respect that this was a difficult and challenging situation for the Clark family, the members of the Raleigh Police Department carried out their difficult and dangerous police responsibilities professionally, with respect, and in accordance with law and policies,” the police department said in a statement that shut down additional complaints about the matter.
Watch bodycam video of the incident in the video below. WARNING - Uneventful content: