Maplewood police handcuffed four minors — including a 10-year-old — for an incident they were later cleared of, igniting activists' concerns on how police handle youth.
Two 12-year-olds, a 16-year-old and the 10-year-old were placed in handcuffs Monday evening about 20 minutes after they were approached by police, according to Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner during a news conference Tuesday. About 20 minutes later, officers cleared the minors of the crime and released them, according to Steiner.
Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said she arrived at the scene after her 16-year-old son called her for help. The four had walked from home to a McDonald's in the 1700 block of E. Cope Avenue on Monday and were not able to leave the squad cars they were placed in until Garraway advocated for their release, she said.
"I got the scariest call any mother can receive — my baby begging for my help," Garraway said, tears in her eyes, in front of the Maplewood Police Department with attorney Jeff Storms. "They don't understand the damage they cause. I think this is a learning experience. This isn't how you treat people's children."
Police were called to the area for a report of shots fired at about 9:32 p.m. Monday, according to Steiner. The caller reported hearing gunshots and saw four juveniles on a surveillance camera outside their business.
Surveillance footage shown at the news conference showed four people walking away at a distance and later several gunshots could be heard.
Police found Garraway's son and the three others walking across Cope Avenue from the McDonald's to a gas station about 200 yards from where the shots were fired, according to Joe Sheeran, Maplewood's communications manager. As officers approached about 9:34 p.m., police say two of the youths ran away. About five minutes later, the two voluntarily returned.
Officers did not handcuff the minors until about 20 minutes into the incident when police received information about "safety issues," according to Sheeran. The officers later determined the four were not involved and released them.
Police are still looking for the suspects, Steiner said.
A video surfaced on Facebook of Garraway at the scene pressing officers to let the minors go and depicts officers releasing them, including a small boy, from handcuffs. Later some of them are shown crying and hugging the adults who had sought their release.
The minors, three of them Black and one Hispanic, were handcuffed without probable cause, Storms said. He said the case was an example of implicit bias.
"This type of conduct to children that young is what precipitates intergenerational distrust of law enforcement," he said. "The two children ultimately came back, sat there, made themselves available for law enforcement — they had done nothing wrong. Despite the fact they did nothing wrong they were still handcuffed and put in squad cars."
The Facebook video shows the officers did not release the minors until Garraway and others yelled at them that the children had done nothing wrong, Storms continued.
"It's hard to envision that this would have happened to white children in other communities in Minnesota," he said.
Tanya Gile, mother of one of the 12-year-olds handcuffed, said the event retraumatized and intensified her family's fear of police. They are still reeling from the loss of her 14-year-old son, Marcoz Paramo, who was killed in a crash following a pursuit by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office in August.
"I was in tears when he came into the house saying, 'Mom, I got arrested,' " she said. "He said, 'Mom we weren't doing anything; we were walking home from McDonald's.' "
Garraway said she wants the Police Department to change its policy on detaining and handcuffing children.
"Those kids will never forget last night for the rest of their lives," she said. "They were innocent babies."