May 31, 2013

14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was slammed to the ground and put in a chokehold over the Memorial Day weekend for the crime of giving Miami-Dade cops “dehumanizing stares.” The police also didn’t approve of his body language and reacted violently to his failure to obey commands. The teen’s mother captured the incident on her cell phone.

The teen insists his only crime was ignoring the police and walking away. “I feel that should never have happened,” he told CBS Miami. “I don’t like it. I feel sad. He got in front of me on the ATC and he slammed my hand. Then he started choking me.” McMillian said his dog was injured during the takedown on Haulover Beach in Miami.

“I ran over with my son and used my cell phone when I saw my son and he couldn’t breathe,” said Maurissa Holmes, the teen’s mother. “There was no reason to slam him on the ground like that the way they did. He’s a child, not an adult. For them to jump off their ATV and do this, this is wrong. I want justice. You don’t do that to a child.”

The incident occurred after police said McMillian was involved in an incident with another teen. The police “told him that behavior was unacceptable,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “He walked away and officers followed him. They asked where his parents were. He said he was not going to take them to them. When he started to leave the beach area, officers had to get off their ATVs to detain him. He had closed arms, clenched fists and pulled his arm away.”

“Once he was approaching the road, the officers restrained him. Again his body language was that he was stiffening up and pulling away,” said Zabaleta. “Now you’re resisting officers at that point and when the hands are swinging and you are resisting officers, at that point you have to be taken into custody.”

“Of course we have to neutralize the threat,” added Zabaleta. “When you have somebody resistant to them and pulling away and somebody clenching their fists and flailing their arms, that’s a threat.”

McMillian was arrested and charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony,. He was also charged with disorderly conduct.

The incident is another example how police interact with the public and how they react when citizens do not obey commands or display what they consider the required amount of deference. McMillian did not pose a violent threat to police. He simply refused to obey orders and when confronted reacted with “dehumanizing stares,” a crime that resulted in a felony charge.

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