BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – A mother who feels her son was racially profiled and wrongfully detained by officers. A police chief who believes his officers acted appropriately and fairly. One situation from two different perspectives.
Kamillah McCall says her 17-year-old son has been traumatized after he was detained by Boardman Police while riding the WRTA bus.
It happened on May 25 in Boardman. Police were called out on reports of a bank robbery. The suspect was described as a black male in a black hoodie and black sweatpants, with a black head covering.
Around the same time, a witness told police they saw a man matching that description run through the mall’s parking lot and get on a WRTA bus.
That’s when police pulled the bus over and entered it with guns drawn.
“A bank robbery had just occurred, that bank robber had threatened bodily harm to people, kind of indicated through gestures that they had a gun. So officers are gonna treat that situation with a lot of caution, concern, and just because they’re pulling their weapons, they’re doing that to affect the safe detention, or in this case arrest of an individual,” Chief Todd Werth said.
“The moment they brung the guns on the bus and they pointed them towards him, he felt the same way every other kid who had that happen to them felt, terrified, he felt terrified. Like why did he have to get guns put in his face when he didn’t do anything?” McCall said.
McCall also says although his clothing was close to the suspect’s description, it wasn’t the same.
“He didn’t fit the description at all. There was not a single thing on him that fit the description. The hoodie had a Nike sign on it, his hoodie clearly did not have a NIke sign on it. The guy had on black pants,” McCall said.
“We’re working based upon a description that was given by the bank tellers, of a thin black male, wearing black clothing… So they’re in that area starting that investigation trying to get bank footage and everything else and that’s a process, that’s not something that’s immediate,” Chief Werth said.
Officer: “Do you see where the bank just got robbed by an African American male in a black hoodie with a white shirt under it and you’re running in this direction, where witnesses said the male was running from the bank.”
Teen: “You don’t even know who your suspect is you don’t have enough information… So why am I being detained? Why was guns pointed at me? I deserve an apology. A 17-year-old boy have to deal with this? And it’s kids younger than me dying.”
Chief Werth said the juvenile was threatening police, and they could have charged him for that, but didn’t.
“Obviously that person’s very, very upset, because they were not involved in a bank robbery, and I think our officers now are shifting gears to where they’re trying to calm him down,” Chief Werth said.
McCall says she knows her son reacted angrily, but he suffers from mental health issues and the fact that he was wrongly accused triggered him.
“He was being calm about it, he was just asking what was going on and they wouldn’t tell him, and he sees the news all the time with all this stuff going on and it reminded him immediately of what was going on with the news with racial profiling,” McCall said.
During the incident, police were also notified that two suspects had just shoplifted from a store in the mall. The two young men pulled off the bus were not charged, although items from that store were found on the other young man.
When asked if this is a case of racial profiling, Werth and McCall had two different answers.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” Chief Werth said.
“Yes, I feel it is a case of racial profiling,” McCall said.