The encounter sparked renewed calls for change from community members—including rapper T.I.—even as nationwide debates over racial justice and the need for police reform continues.
When Shanelle Ladd spotted a group of Black teenagers with their hands up and facing a gun-wielding cop, she immediately parked her car and started recording. "Please, sir. They are kids. Why you got a gun out?" she shouted at the Clayton County police officer even as more passersby stopped at the scene. Her video of the Monday encounter in Jonesboro, Georgia, has now gone viral on social media with many commenting on how quick police are to pull out guns on Black people. The encounter sparked renewed calls for change from community members—including rapper T.I.—as nationwide debates over racial justice and the need for police reform continues.
Today in Clayton County, GA a officer decided to pull his gun out on 5 black teenagers about 13-15 yrs old for going through the neighborhood cut to the store. I’m assuming he thought they were robbing a house huh? 🤦🏾♂️ wake up people shit is sad it’s a cut in every hood. pic.twitter.com/g2KIkpyhki— realist (@EaglesFanOnly) June 16, 2020
"My thought was -- I'm a mom," Ladd told CNN. "I have to protect these kids." Following the backlash for holding the Black teens at gunpoint, Clayton County Police said in a statement that police responded to reports that a group of teenagers had a handgun and were fighting in a store's parking lot. However, surveillance video released by police had no signs of fighting. Police said the teens had already left the store when an officer arrived at the scene and that he spotted them shortly after walking down the street.
Update : Here’s Clayton County officer body cam footage. I still believe he was too aggressive and a gun should have not been the first thing drawn on teenagers on an alleged gun call. Also the officers says “ before you make me nervous “ as if he wasn’t already. pic.twitter.com/3HtRAayYnn— realist (@EaglesFanOnly) June 17, 2020
A 17-minute video from the unidentified officer's body camera released on Tuesday shows the other side of the tense encounter between the teens and the police officer. "Stop, all of y'all stop," the officer yells as he pulled over and exited the car with the gun drawn. "Due to the allegation that the juveniles were in possession of a gun, the officer approached them with his duty weapon drawn and pointed at the juveniles," the police department said in a statement. The officer involved is heard trying to calm the teens several times to convey what he's doing even as bystanders gather around shouting.
I posted the cops perspective because it shows miscommunication and in a lot of these situation miscommunication has lead to deaths that we have seen. 1 call lead to 5 teeenagers almost losing their life just because that’s 5 different thought processes at once it takes 1 to run— realist (@EaglesFanOnly) June 17, 2020
"Listen to me, so you don't get hurt," the officer can be heard saying in the body camera footage. "Don't move, don't move... please, I don't want to hurt one of y'all." He kept his handgun out for over four minutes, pointed at the ground, while the teens stood with their hands over their heads in a grassy area. According to Clayton News Daily, the officer said he kept his service weapon "in the low ready" position—defined as "keeping the gun in front you with your arms somewhat extended, but pointed lower than your target using a two-handed grip"—and waited for back-up to arrive.
"What just happened at the store?" the officer can be heard asking the teens in the video. "Why does the guy think you have a gun?" While he tried talking to the boys about the 911 call they received, bystanders approached the area, calling him out. "People got out in their cars around me," said Ladd. "There were about 30 of us, telling the kids to remain calm and begging the officer to put his gun down." With the crowd around him growing, the officer called for backup and holstered the handgun when another officer arrived at the scene. They both then begin searching the teens and found that none of the teens were carrying a gun.
Cops pulling guns on black babies are why we kneel pic.twitter.com/H0JQ1RinuZ— Shareef (@TouaregKC) June 17, 2020
Police said the teens "were cooperative and remained with their hands visible as instructed," which is evident in the videos posted by onlookers. The officers returned to the store with the teens after searching them and questioned them about a gun they were previously spotted carrying. The boys reportedly told the cops that they had a BB gun — which resembles a semi-automatic pistol — and directed them to the nearby bushes where they had tossed it. "It's five of y'all. It's one of me. Nobody got hurt, y'all listened to me. That was great. I don't want to die y'all," the officer can be heard telling them at the store. "Listen you are not in trouble. You can get hurt, you shouldn't have BB guns... I got kids just like you," he said at another point.
Officials revealed that the teens were not arrested and no charges were filed. "I thought I was gonna die because I've seen all these black kids dying and to have myself in that, it was just crazy," said Kamari Moore, one of the teens involved in the incident. Speaking to reporters about the incident, rapper T.I. said, "Why are only people of color, young black boys, young black girls being gunned down into the hands of policemen and using excuses like BB guns? They have white boys, they got real rifles they go hunting, every day, every week with their grandparents and parents. They aren't being held at gunpoint."