An 18-year-old African American was detained by Wauwatosa police in Wisconsin after they were told by passersby that he was robbing an elderly white woman and her friend.
It turns out Akil Carter—who was initially believed to be a robber—was the driver’s grandson.
Carter and his grandmother, Paulette Barr, and her friend were on their way back home from church when they were stopped by police.
Police handcuffed a black teenager in Wisconsin after passersby told them he was robbing 2 white women. It turns out they were his grandmother and her friend. They were driving home from church.— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 6, 2018
His lawyer is investigating for harassment, reports @journalsentinel. pic.twitter.com/2axLZ7d8jf
Carter was taken into a squad car after being handcuffed off-camera.
He was detained for six minutes before police realized there was a misunderstanding.
These people calling the police need to be reprimanded. this is so irritating and dangerous.— kuuleimilimili (@aysusdellyn) September 6, 2018
Wauwatosa Police Department’s dash-cam footage shows officers approaching the vehicle to clarify the confusion with the driver after they placed Carter in the squad car.
Watch news coverage, including the dash-cam footage here:
The officer told the driver:
“Some guy comes up to me, says there are two black guys robbing a lady.”
Barr quickly tried to sort out the unnerving situation. She can be heard in the footage exclaiming:
“This is my grandson.”
She told the officer:
“I’m sure he saw two old, White ladies in a car with a Black kid and made some assumptions.”
As teens, my white daughter frequently got stopped by the police when she was driving with her black brother in the passenger seat. Once they made her step away from the car to ask her if everything was okay.— Carol Lloyd Neill (@1864house) September 7, 2018
But unlike the wave of incident reports from White witnesses making assumptions, this case has a twist.
A Black couple allegedly flagged down the police according to the officer involved.
Officer says the people who flagged him down were Black... wonder if that is true— Gloria Dorsey (@organize4u) September 7, 2018
When the officer told Barr that the couple who reported the incident was Black, she responded:
“Oh my God. Then it’s even worse.”
Grandma lawyer up.— Cheryl Wigglebottom (@senorasantos) September 6, 2018
According to CBS News, the officer claimed he never got an official statement or names from the witnesses because they had already left the scene.
The car’s dash-cam also did not record the couple flagging down the officer or their interaction.
“officer on patrol had been flagged down by a black couple who claimed two black men had just robbed a white woman, and were sitting in the back of a blue Lexus.” There is 0% chance that this happened like the police say— кнαℓєєѕι'ѕ вєѕт ωιg (@StormXMunroe) September 6, 2018
Because of this, Carter’s family attorney is skeptical about the police’s account.
Joy Bertrand, who is representing Carter, said:
“It seems strange that for all the dash cam footage the police have turned over, we have not seen anything where the officer is interacting with these people.”
Lawd give me strength...— Educ8tus?ll (@Educ8tusAll) September 6, 2018
Bertrand also noted they felt the officer’s response to the call was over-the-top and aggressive.
“Any random person can run up to a police officer now and say, stop that car, it’s engaged in a robbery, and that’s all it takes.”
Michael Harriet, a contributor for The Root, also expressed skepticism about the alleged Black people flagging down police to report another Black person committing a crime.
“Even though I might possibly be willing to believe that there are Black people in Wisconsin, it’s hard for me to believe there are two, not to mention two Black people willing to call the cops on another Black person which would bring the total to three.”
My heart sinks. This is truly awful. Why do we treat POC with such suspicion and fear.— DB?☮??? (@snowqueen2324) September 6, 2018
So are they gonna explain they weren’t profiling? This is outrageous.— Jayne Mead (@jaynemead17) September 6, 2018
Add this to the list of things you can't do while black: Have a white grandmother.— NeverLink ? (@mr_mookie) September 6, 2018
Wauwatosa Police Capt. Brian Zalewski supported the officers involved.
He told the Journal Sentinel they acted accordingly through their “non-approach traffic stop” in which the suspect is called upon to approach them instead of officers approaching the vehicle.
“The officers acted professionally during the entire interaction.”
No statement has been issued at this time regarding the lack of dash-cam footage or record of the Black couple alleged to have flagged down the officers which initiated the traffic stop.