The saying goes no good deed goes unpunished, and an 11-year-old got an exercise in that lesson earlier this month when police drew their guns on him in a case of mistaken identity.

Two weeks ago, Vallejo resident Romie Mims was walking home from school when he noticed a car with smashed-out windows and decided to do the right thing by notifying the homeowner.

However, as Mims knocked on the homeowner’s door, the house’s occupant was busy phoning the Vallejo Police Department, who arrived moments later to confront a dumbfounded Mims.

“I was trying to do a good deed,” Mims said, recounting the terrifying incident to KTVU.

Police proceeded to shout orders at the sixth grader, believing him to be the window smasher, and he dutifully complied. “After they told me to put my hands in the air, I put my hands on the back of my head,” the boy said.

All the while, police kept their weapons trained on Mims, threatening him to get down on the floor and keep still, or else. “They said, ‘If you move we will shoot you’,” Mims recalled. “I started crying. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”

After handcuffing, shaking down and interrogating the young middle schooler, officers realized they’d nabbed the wrong person.

Police apologized, explaining that earlier in the week they’d “received a call from the homeowner saying shots had been fired and that a woman in a hoodie was waving a gun,” according to KTVU. The homeowner supposedly believed the same violent woman had returned.

“We’re sorry at the police department that it happened,” Police Lieutenant Kevin Bartlett offered up as consolation. “I talked to the mom. Of course she’s upset and I don’t blame her for being upset. It’s part of stuff we have to deal with in Vallejo and unfortunately he got caught in the middle of it.” (Pointing guns at random people is just “stuff [they] have to deal with in Vallejo..”)

Never mind “upset.” Mims’ mother, Tonya Evans, was irate. “This is my only child and for him to be treated like that is unacceptable,” Evans told KTVU. “It could have all went a different way and I thank God it didn’t happen like that. The way it happened I can’t change that, but I don’t want it to happen to anyone else’s child ever again.”

Evans also questions whether police responded with force because of her son’s skin color, but police insist they only responded with force because they believed they were confronting a violent threat.

Image at Vallejo PD website shows fully decked out SWAT van, though city has twice filed for bankruptcy since 2008. /
Image at Vallejo PD website shows fully decked out SWAT van, though city has twice filed for bankruptcy since 2008. /

Considering the department’s history, Mims is fortunate police were in a good mood that day. In the past, the Vallejo PD has come under fire for multiple officer-involved shootings, including the shooting death of 41-year-old Anton Barrett in May 2012, who led police on a chase and ultimately ran toward an officer wielding a metal wallet, sealing his fate.

The City of Vallejo’s financial troubles forced the department to cut its force down from about 158 to 88 officers in 2013, contributing to an immense increase in crime. However, the department still apparently lacks fundamental investigatory skills, opening the already destitute city up to lawsuits and additional financial woes.

Furthermore, a journalist with NPR member station KQED maintains that a recent Vallejo PD recruitment video depicts “a line of six police officers holding assault rifles and shotguns, a K-9 officer commanding a dog that then runs off screen, an officer drawing his handgun against a backdrop of a man on a front lawn, and a mock SWAT raid in which officers throw a (tear gas?) grenade into a home and then charge in.”

“When I showed this video to an independent legal expert I’ve interviewed for this story,” Alex Emslie said in an interview with Vallejo City Manager Daniel E. Keen, “he was amazed and talked at length about it showing a disregard for the Vallejo Police Department’s recent history of fatal shootings of civilians, which continues beyond 2012.”

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