Tallahassee, FL – A cell phone video of a toddler mimicking her parents, walking with her hands up toward police officers, prompted the Tallahassee Police Department to release bodycam videos from the scene that showed the entire family being treated with compassion (video below).
The incident occurred at about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 17 when security at a Bealls store called police to report shoplifting suspects, one of whom they believed had a gun in his waistband, according to a statement by Tallahassee police on their official Facebook page.
The security officer gave police a description of the suspects and their vehicle, and officers were able to stop the suspect truck in the parking lot of the store.
A witness in a car parked across the street filmed part of the stop and narrated it with incorrect information.
The video showed a man getting out of the truck with his hands up, and walking toward a police officer.
In the video, other officers can be seen holding rifles pointed in the direction of the suspect truck, but nobody appeared to be pointing a gun at the man getting out of the truck.
Then the video showed a toddler getting out of a truck on her own, and then making her way toward the police officers with her hands up in the air.
The women making the video assumed the officers had ordered the little girl to put her hands up, and one of them also erroneously reported that the officers were pointing guns at the toddler.
“One of them holding at gun at the baby,” one of the women said in the video.
“They’re telling the baby to turn around,” the other woman said.
“They’re still holding the gun at the baby,” the first woman said.
The second woman corrected her and said they were holding the gun on the truck because there were still people in it.
The video was posted to social media and rapidly went viral, with many people outraged at the police department’s treatment of a tiny child.
However, police bodycam video of the actual incident showed the police officers were tender and compassionate with the children, and never pointed any guns at them.
Tallahassee Police Chief Mike DeLeo appeared on a video that included both the cell phone video of the incident and bodycam video from officers.
“The videos show the human side of the officers as they interact with the children,” Chief DeLeo said, pointing out the concern they showed for the children and their mother, even though she was a suspect at that time. “I am proud of how officers handled the situation, how they adapted when they became aware of the children, the level of concern and compassion they showed to the family.”
Bodycam video showed an officer instructing the toddler’s father to get out of the truck and walk towards him with his hands up.
The man complied, and told the officer that there were no more adults in the truck, just his two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
As the officer handcuffed him, he discussed with another officer what to do with the woman they had already taken out of the truck.
“Let’s let her go for now, and let her deal with the kids,” the officer instructed.
At that point, the officer noticed the little girl making her way to him with her hands up in the air.
“Hey c’mon sweetie, you’re okay. You’re okay, come here,” the officer talked to the toddler in a friendly voice.
“Mommy’s right there, go to mommy,” the officer urged. “She’s right there, can you see her?”
The man in handcuffs asked if he could help, and the officer gave him permission.
So the little girl’s father called her to him.
“Sweetie, put your hands down, you’re fine. Go to mommy,” the officer said in the video.
Once the little girl was secured in her mother’s arms, officers approached the truck to remove the baby boy from the car seat in back.
The video showed the officers let the mother take him out of his car seat, and that they held the little girl for her while she did so.
All of the officers used soft voices with the children and spoke gently to them, the video showed.
At no time did the video show any of the officers pointing a weapon at a child or treating a child as a threat.
A pellet gun was found in the backseat of the truck.
Chad Bom, 34, and James McMullen, 38, were both arrested and charged with second-degree theft, according to the police statement.
“This video footage captures the compassion demonstrated by our TPD officers during an intense situation,” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said. “I’m very proud of their actions and appreciative of the work these men and women do each day to keep our community safe.”
Watch the cell phone video and bodycam videos here below: