Police release bodycam footage in response to lawsuit filed by mother of 11-year-old handcuffed

Posted at 5:53 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 17:53:03-04

(WXYZ) — A metro Detroit mother has filed a lawsuit against police in Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township after her 11-year-old son came face-to-face with officers pointing guns at him and placing him in handcuffs.

The images released by police Monday came after a shooting last month at Briarwood Mall and now both sides are speaking out.

The mother of an 11-year-old boy says she’s furious with police who pointed guns at her son and placed him in handcuffs as part of a shooting investigation. Now, police are releasing the body-camera footage and defending their actions.

It's a frightening scene playing out on body-camera video. It was only released to 7 Action News.

"Put the phone down," can be heard on the video.

Pittsfield Township police provided backup on a more than 100-miles per hour pursuit, which was away from a shooting scene at Briarwood Mall. After the driver stopped, one officer shouted commands at an 11-year-old who exited the passenger seat of the car in Ypsilanti Township.

“Lay down. Lay down. Put the phone down,” an officer commanded.

Seconds later, the boy is told to stand up as the officer puts away his gun and places him in handcuffs.

“Are you ok? These come off just as easy alright. Are you ok?" an officer is heard saying.

The boy is then asked if he's OK and answers: "I'm scared."

A minute and 40 seconds later, the cuffs are taken off and the child is given back his phone to call his mother.

The officer then steps away, then returns with a cold drink from his cooler moments later. All the while, the child's father, whom police say wasn't involved in the mall shooting on April 16, is detained on active warrants for a drug offense and traffic violations.

The entire ordeal is now the focus of a federal lawsuit filed by the child's mother She says she intends to hold police from Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor accountable.

“He was exposed to something he wasn’t supposed to be exposed to," said Markia Dixson, the boy's mother. "They didn’t even let me know they put my son in handcuffs. He didn’t feel safe to cry until I got there.”

She says the trauma is something her son is now haunted by and the experience has had a devastating impact on the boy.

After releasing the video, the Pittsfield Township Public Safety director agreed to sit down with 7 Action News to respond to questions, including why the 11-year-old was handcuffed at all.

“The detainment of the child with handcuffs, albeit unfortunate, was necessary because we had to protect officers, that individual, the child, the driver and anyone else,” said Matt Harshberger.

He also maintains that officers that day followed training and department procedures and says the officers quickly did whatever they could to comfort the boy soon after the interaction.

“Just to calm down. Get you a Gatorade. Call your mom and get her to pick you up, things of that nature," Harshberger said. "It was within policy, proper procedure and they were very professional and restrained."

Ann Arbor police were also named in the lawsuit, and are deferring to Pittsfield Township police for comment. Moving forward, the video footage will be presented as key evidence in the upcoming civil case.