(NEW YORK) — A 12-year-old who was wrongfully handcuffed and detained by police in Lansing, Michigan on Thursday while he was taking out the trash spoke out in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America about what the family says was a “traumatic” experience.
“When it happened, I was really, like, shocked and frightened about like the situation, and how it happened,” Tashawn Bernard said in an interview that aired on GMA Monday.
“This has been a very traumatic and emotional experience for him and his entire family,” family attorney Rico Neal told GMA.
Tashawn’s father, Michael Bernard, said that the incident happened when he asked his son to take the trash out to the dumpster at their apartment complex.
But a few minutes later, realizing that Tashawn had not returned, he looked outside and saw that Tashawn was surrounded by police.
“I saw police around him, so I dropped what I had in my hand … and rushed downstairs,” Bernard told GMA. “So I say, ‘why you have my son in handcuffs? What’s the problem?'”
The incident was captured on cell phone video and went viral on social media. Tashawn was released moments after he was detained but appeared visibly shaken in the video.
According to a statement by the Lansing Police Department shared on social media Friday, officers were investigating a string of Kia thefts, including the theft of a vehicle that was reported on the 3600 block of W. Jolly Road, where a witness described the suspect as wearing neon-colored shorts and a white shirt.
While one officer pursued a suspect matching the description, police said that another “saw the young man pictured in the viral video wearing a very similar outfit and made contact with him,” but he was later “released” after police clarified that he was not the suspect they were seeking.
“Community relations is a top priority for us as a department, from top-down. Our hope is we can put this unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ behind us and continue to represent the community that we serve,” the Aug. 11 statement said, which included intentionally blurred images of both the suspect and a boy, who was later identified as Tashawn Bernard.
Neal, the Bernard family’s attorney, said that Tashawn was not wearing a white shirt, but rather one that was ” light gray or a light bluish.”
Lansing Police Department Chief Ellery Sosebee also apologized in a statement released on Friday for what he called an “unfortunate” incident.
“I have reviewed the incident and can confirm the officer who contacted and detained the young man was respectful and professional during his investigation,” Sosebee said.
“As the Chief of Police, I want to apologize that this incident had such an effect on this young man and his family,” Sosebee continued. “I’m asking for the community to consider all the facts of the situation before making a judgment. The relationship with our community has been and will continue to be a top priority for the Lansing Police Department.”
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor also apologized for the incident, telling ABC News that the Lansing Police Department is in contact with the family and providing support.
“Our officers do their absolute best to protect Lansing, but in this case a mistake was made and we own it and apologize to those affected,” Shor said.
The Bernard family said that they are keeping all options on the table following the incident, including the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
“I want justice for my son,” Bernard said, adding that “in this time and era in America, I am still scared for anything to happen to my son.”
“This has been a traumatic experience for Tashawn and his family,” Neal said. “This has been an experience that Tashawn and his family will live with for the rest of his life.”
ABC News has reached out to the Lansing Police Department for further comment.
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