By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – The video captures a scene where a kid is getting into his tutor’s car after school, the police officer approaches from behind and detains him. The tutor gets out and confronts the officer to ask him what is going on. The boy was detained for 30 minutes.
On Tuesday at a press conference, Delores Coleman, mother of the 13-year-old said, “My son has been traumatized by the police officer’s attack.”
She added, “As his mother, I am horrified that this happened to my son, who is loving, carefree, polite, and well-mannered. He doesn’t understand why this happened to him when he had done nothing wrong. Since the incident, my child is fearful about returning to school; he is embarrassed and wonders what his friends will think about him.”
According to the family’s account, the 13-year-old student was at Sterne School in San Francisco on March 15, 2022, waiting outside for a ride home from the boy’s tutor. The tutor arrived and as the boy put his backpack into the car, Sgt. Parra ran up and yelled, “Get out of the car, put your hands behind your back!”
Sgt. Parra then allegedly “violently grabbed” the boy and held his arms behind him.
The tutor confronted the officer, saying that the student was just 13 and had just come from the school.
Sterne School counselor Rebecca Chao, and Head of School, Melissa Meyers, quickly arrived at the scene.
Chao and Meyers told the officer that the boy was in school all day. However, despite their appeals, Parra would not allow him to leave and allegedly “illegally detained the terrified young black student for 20 minutes.”
Sgt. Parra claimed the child fit the description of a suspect. The description he gave included that the suspect had “black pants, a black hoody, and red shoes.” However, the 13-year-old boy did not fit the officer’s description. He had predominantly black shoes and bright red shoestrings, and he looked like a very young boy who was very slightly built, weighing less than 100 pounds.
“Any reasonable police officer could have determined that this young boy did not fit the description of the suspect described as a male black, wearing black clothing and red shoes who was allegedly seen breaking into cars,” said attorney John Burris who is representing the family.
Myers described the incident as “disturbing.” She said it “involved a student in our community and an officer from the San Francisco Police Department.
“Several staff members and our security guard witnessed the event and stepped in to support the student. This student was simply exiting the school for the day and did nothing wrong. The result of this incident deeply affected them, their family, and our school community,” Myers said. “A formal complaint on behalf of Sterne School has been filed with the San Francisco Police Department.”
In a phone interview with the Vanguard, Burris said that “this was a very symbolic case in the sense that it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. If you’re an African American parent worried about your son this is a family that had to receive the call that the son was, made, possibly going to be arrested.”
He said, “As an African American parent, you have to give your son the talk and that is to worry about the police.”
Burris said that the issue most concerning was the vague description, “African American male wearing dark clothing and red tennis shoes.”
“That description was so vague, it could meet any Black on his feet on any given day,” he said noting there was no description of age or physical size.
He said, “It was really just a generalized description that could fit anyone. And the first Black person he saw, he grabbed. Unfortunately, this kid was just coming out of school and waiting for his ride to pick him up.”
According to Burris, “As a result of the incident, the 13-year-old student missed many days of school and also has developed anxiety around interacting with police.”
Burris said that “this has been a horrific event for him” and “the kid’s been very emotionally distraught” and “cried a lot.”
Burris noted that the city has conducted a study that showed that African Americans were five times more likely to be stopped than whites in the city. Ten times more to have their cars searched. And 14 times more likely to be beaten.
“This is the backdrop in which the case occurred,” he said. He expressed what he believed would be collateral damage of this kind, not only for the family “but also for the community itself, because this is the kind of case that undermines the potential good relations between the police and the community, particularly young African American males.”
Burris said, “This is a classic form of racial profiling in that the officer detained a Black boy that he saw wearing dark clothing, giving limited consideration as to whether the 100-pound black student actually met the suspect’s physical description, age, complexion, etc.”
Burris added, “Any reasonable police officer would have noted the surroundings and that this was a school and he was in front, crossing the sidewalk, thus easily determining where the boy was coming from and who he was with instead of adopting a “Rambo style” of running at, yelling and attacking first.”