A video showing a Clayton County police officer pointing a gun at a group of teenagers sparked vehement displeasure among those at the scene and thousands who saw the images online, but the police department said it doesn’t tell the complete story.
The video shows frustrated neighbors rising in defense of the teens as an officer armed with a handgun has them detained. It had been viewed more than 3,300 times on Instagram and re-posted to numerous Facebook accounts by Tuesday afternoon.
Officials said police were called to the location shortly after 7 p.m. Monday after a clerk at the QuikStop on Flint River Road reported that five teens were trying to steal from the store. One of the teens was armed with a gun, the caller told the 911 dispatcher.
In a second call, the store clerk said the teens were in the parking lot “fighting.”
A police officer began patrolling the area and found a group of teens “matching the description he was provided just down the street from the store,” Clayton County police said in a news release Tuesday.
“Fearing they might be armed and for my safety, I pulled out my service weapon and pointed it at the juveniles,” the officer wrote in a police report.
“I told the juveniles to listen to me for their safety and I gave them instructions on what I wanted and needed them to do,” the officer wrote. “I held my service weapon in the low ready and was waiting for backup to arrive.”
According to the incident report, the officer told the teens not to move “because I didn’t want to hurt one of them.”
“I told the juveniles to don’t move because it was making me nervous,” the report said. “While waiting for backup, I started speaking with the juveniles. I was de-escalating the situation.”
The video that was circulated on social media captured six minutes of the exchange. Five people are seen standing in a grassy area next to a sidewalk with a residential area in the background. Their hands are over their heads.
The officer is standing in front of the group, the video shows. The officer’s back is toward the camera throughout most of the video.
The person doing the recording can be heard saying: “Come on now, they’re kids.”
Later, the same voice can be heard saying: “Why you got a gun out,” and “please put your gun up, sir.”
In the incident report, the officer said he noticed “vehicles ahead and behind stopping and people getting out.” He told the teens to stay focused on him “because the crowd was yelling in the background,” the report said.
In the video, several passersby are heard shouting for the officer not to hurt the teens.
“They’re teenagers,” one man shouts to the officer. “(They’re) probably not even 16, 17. They’re not even legal yet.”
The bystanders screamed for the officer not to fire his weapon.
“It’s OK, y’all,” one person shouts to the detained group. “We got y’all. It’s all right.”
“I kept looking back and forth at the crowd and kept my service weapon at the low ready,” the report said. “I explained to the juveniles to stay calm and focus on me because they knew why I was there. I stressed that one of them could still be armed and I haven’t dispelled that threat.”
Additional police cars are seen arriving at the scene in the video. One officer gets out, approaches the group and begins patting down the teens alongside the first officer, the video shows.
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“I holstered my service weapon,” the incident report said. “I walked up to the juveniles and started patting them down for weapons. I kept telling them to relax. None of the juveniles were armed.”
The video ends with the five people walking away, seemingly after having been released.
According to the incident report, the teens and the officer regrouped at the store, where the officer reviewed surveillance video that apparently showed them playing with a gun.
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Clayton police said the teens told officers they had a BB gun and had thrown it in some nearby bushes. When police located the BB gun, they confirmed it “closely resembled a live semi-automatic pistol,” the police department said in a statement.
“The officer explained to the juveniles the dangers associated with playing with a weapon, especially one that appears to be a real, live weapon,” the statement said.
The teens were released at the scene with no charges.
NOTE: The embedded post contains graphic language.
The incident comes amid mounting tension between police and the black community. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of officers sparked renewed outrage over police brutality and inspired protests across the nation.
Less than a week before the Clayton incident, 26-year-old Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by a police officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s in Atlanta. The incident spurred the third week of protests in the city.
Police in Clayton said they want to remind citizens that they are “committed to protecting and serving.”
“We will remain committed to being transparent and accountable to our community,” the department said.
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