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Cops Stop Teen for Suspected 'Truancy,' End Up Pepper-Spraying Him

"He did absolutely nothing wrong," one witness said.

Facebook Screenshot via Shiba TynesFacebook Screenshot via Shiba TynesVirginia police are investigating the conduct of two officers after a 16-year-old boy was pepper-sprayed and arrested this week. While police claim the officers thought he might be skipping school, the teen's family and a witness who saw the entire encounter say he did nothing wrong.

The Norfolk Police Department said in a statement that two officers saw the teen "walking in the roadway" at about 12:50 p.m. on Monday. "The officers stopped the 16-year-old under the suspicion of truancy, not being in school during school hours," the statement said, adding that at some point, "one of the officers utilized" pepper spray. The incident is now under investigation, while the "officers involved," who the department has not identified, "remain on duty."

Michael Muhammad, a non-attorney spokesperson for the boy's family, detailed what happened from the perspective of "Tariq," whose last name was not provided.

Having received permission from both his mother and Granby High School, Tariq went home early on Monday, Muhammad tells Reason. Tariq travelled part of the way on public transit, then got off and started walking, at which point a "police car pulled up beside him," Muhammad says. The officers said something to him, but Tariq ignored them. "Young Tariq did not feel as if he had to respond and so he didn't within his constitutional rights," Muhammad adds, explaining that this "is the posture that he developed from interactions with the police in his community."

Tariq kept walking. Then, "one of the officers got out of the car and put his hands on him," Muhammad says. But Tariq still wasn't interested in engaging. "I don't have to talk to you all," he told the cop, according to Muhammad. The other officer got out of the car and "maced him," Muhammad says.

Larry Ricks, a market analyst who works in the area, told The Virginian-Pilot he witnessed the whole incident. "[Tariq] did absolutely nothing wrong," Ricks said.

Several videos posted to social media show what happened after Tariq was pepper-sprayed. In one video, the officers, both of whom are white, try to untangle Tariq's backpack as his hands are behind his back. "All I seen was a young man walking across the street looking like he was coming from school," a woman says in the video. "What did he do for them to do all this to him?"

In another video, the officers are holding Tariq up against the police car as they search him. Tariq tells the officers that they're "pulling me to the ground." He asks: "How am I supposed to stand up straight if you got pressure on me?"

As Tariq was being arrested, Ricks spoke with one of the officers in an effort to figure out what the teen had done wrong. The Pilot reports:

[The officer] offered different explanations for stopping the teen. At first, he told Ricks they just wanted to talk with him, but he "gave us attitude." Later, he mentioned a string of break-ins in the area.

At one point, the officer pulled a pencil out of Tariq's pocket. "See, he could've stabbed me in the face with this pencil," Ricks recalled the officer saying.

The officer also discovered an ankle monitor on Tariq's leg. "You think he might be in trouble before?" he told Ricks.

Paramedics soon arrived on the scene, and Tariq was eventually taken home to his mother. "They didn't charge him, they didn't take him to juvenile [detention]," Muhammad says. Still, one of the officers allegedly told Tariq's mother: "Be thankful that it wasn't worse" and "don't make excuses for your child's behavior."

The mother plans to file a complaint with internal affairs. And the family has retained legal counsel due to what Muhammad referred to as the "threatening" statement from police. In the statement, police said "charges for [the] teen will be determined at the conclusion of the internal investigation."

That doesn't sound like the correct procedure, Muhammad says. "Generally, if he were to be charged with anything, it would be a misdemeanor for that type of interaction, and that would be determined by the field investigating officer or the arresting officer. It wouldn't be done via an internal panel," he explains. "We saw the need to secure legal counsel for the young man so as to not have him arrested unsuspectingly or to be charged with a crime when in fact he was observing his constitutional rights and able to move about freely as a citizen."

Muhammad thinks Tariq's experience represents a larger problem in the area.

Chief Larry Boone, he says, "is touting" Norfolk as a good example of "community policing." But "in truth, there is no real penetration in the relationship between police and citizens," Muhammad says, particularly between cops and African Americans. "As citizens, we should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other citizen. But apparently we don't have that."

Photo Credit: Facebook Screenshot via Shiba Tynes

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  • Uncle Jay||

    Stupid cop.
    Doesn't he know shooting a kid for truancy is justified?
    Our cops are getting soft.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yep. It's a perverse incentive, but if he'd shot the kid he's more likely to get away with it as (A) the kid won't be around to tell their side of the story, and (B) since the consequence would be much higher, the internal investigation would be much more likely to be lenient.

  • NashTiger||

    Well, these sound like they were making credible accusations. No doubt further investigation was needed

  • Brandybuck||

    He should have not showed attitude. He was in the right, but cops have delicate and sensitive egos. You show them attitude or they will hurt you. Being in your rights does not make the mace hurt any less.

    This is sad for me to say, but it's the truth. The cops in this country are out of control and eager to demonstrate their authority. Standing up for your rights can get you killed in this climate.

  • sarcasmic||

    Their authority comes from their duty to enforce the law. If they have no reasonable reason to believe the law is being broken, then they have no authority. Where their authority ends, our rights begin. Except that they face no consequences for using their power when they have no authority. So where our rights begin, their power continues. Which in effect means we have no rights at all.

  • Robert||

    Is it different in many other countries?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yes.

    In many other countries, the police are, compared to American cops, disarmed. This lack of weaponry makes them much less likely to engage in hostile behavior, less likely to charge in, less likely to escalate.

    Whether it would make a difference in this particular case or not, who knows. But the overall trends and patterns are pretty clear.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Well, both cops and teenagers are assholes. This can break either way. Just roll the video and this will be easy to sort out.

    They did have the cameras on, didn't they?

  • prolefeed||

    If the police have to call in IA to investigate officer conduct, and theyhaven't charged the kid with anything, you really think the kid is in the wrong here?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Both the cops and teenager may be assholes, but one of them still has a chance to grow out of it.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You know who else's name was Tariq?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Saddam Hussein's foreign minister?

  • Paloma||

    The Vice President and head of the military in Venezuela?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    At one point, the officer pulled a pencil out of Tariq's pocket. "See, he could've stabbed me in the face with this pencil," Ricks recalled the officer saying.

    I never stopped to consider my daughter has an entire backpack full of deadly cop-killer weapons.

  • SusanM||

    Just be grateful there isn't a 3 day waiting period at the stationary store.

  • Rich||

    Stop giving them ideas!

  • Michael Cox||

    That protractor is an offensive weapon!

  • Chmeee||

  • Rich||

    the statement said, adding that at some point, "one of the officers utilized" pepper spray. The incident is now under investigation

    Of course it's under investigation! Passive voice was not utilized in the statement!

  • Rich||

    The officer also discovered an ankle monitor on Tariq's leg.

    Is that the current fad, or what?

  • Robert||

    I get it...current...electronic instruments..fad...Farad.

  • Rich||

    Whoa. Ohm thinking you amplify with frequency.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Watt did you say?

  • Shirley Knott||

    #resist

  • Longtobefree||

    "Sailors and dogs, keep off the grass"
    I see Norfolk is still the same welcoming place it has always been.

  • Agammamon||

    Its amazing that Norfolk, with its long acquaintance with the US Navy, would think that sailors read.

  • sarcasmic||

    "...when in fact he was observing his constitutional rights and able to move about freely as a citizen."

    When dealing with the police we have the right to obey. That's it. Fail to obey and you will be hurt or killed. Doesn't matter if their commands are legal or illegal. Obey or else. So in effect cops have absolute power because they can literally do anything they want. Literally. Cops will never stop other cops, and any non-cop who tries will be beaten or killed. They have absolute power over us. Land of the free to ask permission and obey orders.

  • Ron||

    If a cop stops you you do have to talk to them. don't be a self rightious moron and get with the system

  • Cyto||

    Actually, i think you are required to identify yourself. I'm not sure you have to go any further than that, but i think they can detain you until they are able to identity you if you refuse.

    Someone around here has to remember the details on that...

  • Hugh Akston||

    Virginia is not a Stop and Identify state.

  • Deep Lurker||

    If a cop stops you you have to tug your forelock, very 'umble Sir. Because they're aristocratic Agents of the Government, with the power of High Justice, Low Justice, and Tsujigiri - and you're just a peasant.

  • Rich||

    "Sir, I do not bite my thumb at you. However, Sir, I do bite my thumb."

  • prolefeed||

    If a cop stops you you do have to talk to them.

    If by "talk to them" you mean assert your constitutional right to not talk to them, and then inquire if you're free to go, then sure.

    If we lived in a free country, you wouldn't even have to do that. They would have to affirmatively assert a reason for stopping you based on probable cause.

  • Agammamon||

    Terry Stop

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_stop

    1. Requires that there have been 'reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity' to be legal.

    2. Does not require you to talk to the cops. Doesn't even require you to identify yourself unless your community already has a generalized 'stop and indentify' statute. And most places don't.

    30 seconds with Google can keep you from making stupid posts.

  • E. Zachary Knight||

    There are only three things you ever have to say to a cop:

    1: Am I being Detained? Am I free to go?
    2: I do not consent to any searches.
    3: I won't say anything else until I talk to a lawyer.

  • EscherEnigma||

    It's possible Ron was actually confused on the legality here, but his "get with the system" part makes me think that he's talking from a practical perspective, not a legal perspective.

    And it might not be right, but he is right.

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    Keeping street crime in check and disrupting an imminent suicide bombing in one go. I think some extra slop down at the sty is in order!

  • Cyto||

    Hey Joe!

    Thanks for covering this beat. It has been missing around here for quite a while.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Which beat would that be?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The petty police abuse beat. The one thing that brings us all together.

  • DPICM||

    Sic semper trutannos.

  • Tamfang||

    Did you mean truantibus? (consonant-stem dative rather than o-stem accusative)

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    The officer also discovered an ankle monitor on Tariq's leg.

    So, Flo, the Progressive lady, needs to know what he is up to?

  • Conchfritters||

    "How am I supposed to stand up straight if you got pressure on me?"

    That's how they get you on "resisting arrest" bro. They probably don't want to take you to jail just on charges of "walking down the street" - - err, I mean, disorderly conduct.

  • Agammamon||

    I still don't understand how truancy could have ever been a crime, let alone why it still is.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Schools receive funding based on attendance. So basically, the kid was stealing from the school by not being there.

  • LEAPGuyAZ||

    The article says, "at first, he told Ricks they just wanted to talk with him, but he "gave us attitude."
    This is called contempt of cop, you failed the attitude test so they're going to teach you a lesson...

  • Robert||

    Don't want to be treated as a thug? Don't be a cop like a thug.

  • Don't look at me!||

    there is no real penetration in the relationship between police and citizens
    Incel cops. No wonder they are so angry.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    "gave us attitude."

    I simply don't understand how cops can consistently be so moronic that they think this is an actual crime.

  • MikeP2||

    In any subset f the populace, there is a high percentage of assholes. My esperience is that somewhere between 10-20% of people, with just mild stressors, become raging assholes.
    I havent found cops to be uniquely different then the general populace. In fact id say they are actually less likely to be assholes. But even a 5% asshole rate, given the constant public interaction and state-backed ultimate authority means we get crap like this.
    These specific cops are assholes plan and simple. I bet their colleagues know it and avoid them. I bet most cops see stories like this and facepalmike the rest of us. But, at the end of the day, Tariq had no power at that point it time, that could prevent the assholes from doing whatever they wanted. Lawyers and courts are for after the fact. But in that moment, tariq was completely and utterly powerless against state empowered assholes.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    lol pencil

  • MikeP2||

    This wont end until there is more widespread concealed carry, with a willingness to forcibly protect ones constitutional rights. Cops do what they want because their state and union funded attorneys largely overpower their victims ability to push back legally. Regardless of how many outstanding leos there are, there is a high enough percentage of assholes that this is the crap we see.
    An armed populace is a populace that is respected by the state.

  • Dan S.||

    The police can stop and question you if they have "reasonable suspicion" that you were/are/will be involved in criminal activity. If they don't have reasonable suspicion, you don't have to answer them. But if they don't have to tell you what their reasonable suspicion is, you have no way to ascertain whether they have it or not, so that last right is not really usable. Is that right?

  • E. Zachary Knight||

    If a cop stops to talk to you, there are three things that you should say, and only these three:

    1: Am I being detained? Am I free to go?
    2: I do not consent to any searches.
    3: I will not say anything without talking to my lawyer.

    If a cop has no legal justification for stopping you, this will end the stop pretty quickly.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Why is there an ankle monitor on Tariq's leg?

    This suggests that he is under some type of court ordered surveillance. That he has been arrested, tried and found guilty of some crime.

    This, coupled with the fact that he was released from school early, but left the bus to walk the remainder of the way suggests that Tariq was not where he was legally required to be.

    In such a situation, it is wiser to comply with police requests rather than try to stand on one's rights--rights which may be somewhat abrogated as part of his sentence.

    Once again, Reason appears to have chosen to champion an individual who may very well not be a good example of police overreach.

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