Pittsfield Township, MI – A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Pittsfield Township police officer who pointed his weapon at and handcuffed an 11-year-old boy who was in the car with his father when he led police on a high-speed chase (video below).
The incident occurred on April 16 when 11-year-old Benjamin Whitfield was in the car with his father driving near the Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, MLive reported.
There was an unrelated shooting in the area and Ann Arbor police redirected Whitfield’s father away from the mall.
Authorities said that’s when the boy’s father drove the wrong way down a one-way street nearby the mall and then hit more than 100 mph on the freeway, MLive reported.
Officers initiated a traffic stop but Whitfield’s father took off and led police on a high-speed chase involving multiple law enforcement agencies, WDIV reported.
The chase ended in a Kroger parking lot in Ypsilanti Township.
Police ordered the occupants of the suspect vehicle out of the car at gunpoint.
Bodycam video showed the 11-year-old Whitfield exiting the vehicle with his hands in the air.
Then a Pittsfield Township police officer ordered the child to put his phone down and sit on the curb as officers tried to detain his father on the other side of the vehicle.
Whitfield’s father can be heard resisting arrest outside the frame of the video as the child complied with the officer’s instructions.
Seconds later, the officer told the child to stand up, the video showed.
“Stand up, I gotcha,” the officer told Whitfield. “Hey, you’re good. You’re good. Stand up, I gotcha.”
The officer used a kindly tone with the boy as he relieved him of his cell phone “so we don’t break it” and put the child in handcuffs, the videos showed.
Once the boy was detained, the officer put his cell phone back into his pocket for him.
A moment later, the officer led the boy towards a patrol vehicle that was off to the side of the parking lot.
The video showed that was when a supervisor arrived and told the officer to take the handcuffs off the boy and sit him on the curb.
The officer told the 11 year old to call his mother to come pick him up and then gave her directions on how to find them, the video showed.
The little boy expressed concern about a gift for his grandmother that was in the car his father had been driving and the officer reassured him that they would get it for him before he left.
Then he gave the child a Gatorade and another officer walked Whitfield over to talk with his father before the man was taken to jail, bodycam video showed.
Attorneys for the little boy’s family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 5 that accused the Pittsfield Township officer of having caused “emotional injury” to Whitfield when he pointed the gun at him and handcuffed him, MLive reported.
Markia Dixson, Whitfield’s mother, said her son was never a threat to the officers and shouldn’t have been treated like a criminal.
“You just changed my son’s whole life,” Dixson said. “He’s not gonna ever be able to trust a police officer. He’s going to be scared all the time, and that shouldn’t have to happen.”
The lawsuit alleged that the Pittsfield Township police officer violated police department policy that says to “not place subdued children in handcuffs without probable cause or reasonable suspicion,” MLive reported.
The complaint listed counts of battery, assault with a deadly weapon, infliction of emotional distress, and gross negligence that Whitfield’s mother has alleged against the officer.
Protesters gathered in front of the Pittsfield Township administration building on Nov. 2, MLive reported.
“We are tired of our children being victimized and being brutalized in our streets,” Trische Duckworth, a member of the local activist group Survivors Speak, said. “Innocent children. Do I agree with what his father did? No, but he is like many black people who police get behind and [make them] fear for their lives, and [then] they make choices that are not appropriate.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content: