Durham community rallies behind group of boys who had guns pulled on them by police

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Dozens of people took to the streets in Durham Friday night asking police to let kids just be kids.

The march and rally comes after police drew their guns and handcuffed a 15-year-old boy while he was playing tag with his friends outside of his home. Police said they mistakenly believed the boy was a suspect in a crime and later removed the handcuffs.

“It was scary. I feel violated. I go outside to have fun, get away from stuff, play and talk to my friends but I can’t do that anymore,” said Jaylin, the 15-year-old involved.

His mother also spoke about the incident.

“Those are the immediate things that come to your head like ‘oh my God I’m going to have to bury my son. Or when I get to this scene I’m going to see my child stretched out on the ground.’ I didn’t know what I was walking into and it was very frightening,” said Ashley Harris, Jaylin’s mother.

The trauma led the family to seek therapy.

The teen’s 9-year-old friend who witnessed the incident is also having a hard time coping.

People at the march and rally Friday night. Photo by Emani Payne/CBS 17

“They had guns out on us and said ‘get on the ground. I’m just trying to stay positive,” said Zakarayya, who saw the incident.

“It’s just so sad that we even have to have this conversation with him and he’s just so strong — for him to be so little, it’s just real emotional,” said Makeba Cornelius, Zakarayya’s mother.

The families and community marched from city hall to the police headquarters in hopes that something similar won’t happen again. The march was organized by a group of mothers hoping to keep children safe in Durham.

“We have already begun the court process to get permission to view the footage. I’m pretty certain that given what I know about this council, we will opt to release it,” said Mark Anthony Middleton, who is on the Durham City Council.

In a statement Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said in part:

“A thorough internal investigation is underway, and I, as Chief, have expressed to the families my sincere remorse that this incident even occurred. We are not a perfect police department, but to become better, we must continue to strengthen our relationship with the community through partnerships and trust”

It’s unclear if the officers involved are still out working the streets.

The family says they are still hoping for an apology from the officers. The families plan to rally again next Friday at 7 p.m.

Below is the full statement from Davis:

In recent days, there have been numerous communications and inquiries regarding the actions of Durham police officers who responded to 2819 Rochelle St, on August 21st to investigate a “suspicious person with a weapon” call. The caller described an individual at a particular building as having a gun and drugs, and further asserted that he was believed to have been involved in a prior shooting.

Durham police officers had already responded to weapons-related calls earlier in the day at this same address. Upon their arrival, Durham police officers believed an individual behind the building was the suspect. It was not until the young man was detained that officers realized he was not the suspect, but rather, a 15-year-old resident of Rochelle Manor. Given the nature of the call, officers did have weapons initially drawn; however, they were holstered upon realizing that the detained individual was not the suspect. Based on preliminary review of video footage, guns were not pointed at the heads of any individual on the scene. Regrettably, an 8-year-old had witnessed the incident. I met with the families immediately following the incident and have had conversations with them in the last couple of days. We recognize that the current climate of adverse encounters by police in communities of color around the nation continue to resonate. DPD’s goal is to improve our relationships with the community by leading with and implementing reforms that promote a safe and trusting environment.

A thorough internal investigation is underway, and I, as Chief, have expressed to the families my sincere remorse that this incident even occurred. DPD remains committed to responding to all our residents’ public safety needs with the utmost care and concern for everyone involved. We are not a perfect police department, but to become better, we must continue to strengthen our relationship with the community through partnerships and trust, which has already begun with residents and leaders in this particular community and throughout the city.

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