An investigation is being launched after California sheriff’s deputies were seen detaining Black minors, who were allegedly victims of an assault, at gunpoint.
The mother of one of the boys, Tammi Collins, said her son and his friends were attacked by a man experiencing homelessness while sitting at a bus stop in Santa Clarita. He pulled a knife on the boys after asking them for drugs. To stave off the attacker, Collins said the boys defended themselves with a skateboard, according to ABC 7.
Collins told ABC 7 that several calls were made to 911 identifying the boys as victims in the incident, but one caller accused the boys of attacking the man.
When law enforcement officials arrived at the scene, a witness recorded as they drew their weapons on the boys despite bystanders telling them the teens were not the assailants.
In the video Collins posted to Instagram, a woman, who identified herself as the manager of the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, tried to reason with the deputies who were still aiming their weapons at the teens.
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I wanted to share what happened to my son yesterday in SCV when he was with a couple of friends sitting at a bus stop headed home. He was attacked by a gentleman (homeless guy) who approached them and first asked them if they had any crack then tried to take their things. The guy became so aggressive that he took his shirt off pulled out a knife and whip them tried to stabbed them. His friends only had their skate boards to cover them from the knife and whip so they held it out to keep distance from this guy. Several bystanders including the restaurant manager of Buffalo Wild wings called the police to get help for the boys but “One” caller called the police and reported two black guys are attacking a homeless guy. This is how the police responded. This is something my son and his friends will never forget. I’m still wonder how will I ever help my son recover from this traumatic experience. Please pray for my family. Please Share to protect our kids!!!
"I’m the manager here at Buffalo Wild Wings and we saw everything,” she said. “I’m the one that called you. It was not them.”
Multiple onlookers can be heard trying to tell the law enforcement agents that the children were not the aggressors in the attack.
The deputies who initially arrived at the scene of the incident said they were responding to a report that two men hit another man with a skateboard, according to NBC Los Angeles. The boys were detained, per department policy, but were not arrested prior to their release.
The parents of the teens have found the viral video hard to watch because they say it's triggering. Collins said she hasn’t yet been able to bring herself to watch the video in its entirety. Devastatingly enough, she’d recently instructed her son on how to conduct himself in the presence of police.
"I know that my son will never forget this experience. Especially after George Floyd, I sat him down and talked to him about how to respond if he was ever approached by police, so he knew exactly what to do," the mother said. "How to follow orders, not to say anything, not to do anything out of character. So to see how they treated the boys, it was literally heartbreaking. I couldn't watch the full video."
Derrick Gray, the father of one of the other teens in the video, said the recording brought him great sorrow as an American and military veteran.
"When I watched the video, it hurt me, because I’ve given my life for the country. I’m a veteran," Gray said. "I’ve raised my children to do what’s right, you know?"
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it is currently investigating the incident but also said it didn’t receive a call about a man in the area attacking teenagers with a knife, according to NBC.
On Monday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva released a video statement regarding the incident in which he said he had concerns about the tactics employed by deputies.
My statement regarding the recent video involving a call for service in Santa Clarita. The matter is being investigated & we will provide updates as they become available. pic.twitter.com/yu1ZCXtVKz
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) August 10, 2020
Robert Brown, the attorney representing the families of the three teens in the video, said the boys are traumatized following the back-to-back near-death experiences.
"The young men are still shaken up by the incident. It was traumatizing. After having been attacked with [a] knife, minutes later, they experienced numerous police [officers] pointing guns at them," he said. "So [two] life and death situations in a matter of minutes. At this time, it has been decided that the young men should not speak about what happened and that they should focus on processing the situation and healing."
The sheriff's department said it hasn't located the man who brandished the knife. Though people at the scene of the incident identified him as the attacker, the sheriff’s department described the man as a “possible victim.”
Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth has called for the investigation to be expedited and asked for the deputy involved to be removed from official duties until the review is completed, per ABC.