News & Politics

Shotgun-Toting Cops Chase 10-Year-Old Boy Through Streets of Newark, Thinking He Was a Robbery Suspect

Childhood is for white kids.

Photo Credit: Facebook

A 10-year-old child was chased by police—who admit to having their guns drawn—after they mistook him for a robbery suspect. Unlike numerous other cases in which African-American teens were gunned down by police officers who assumed their guilt, the intervention of neighbors ensured this case ended with the boy's safety.

Fifth-grader Legend Preston told WABC-TV he was playing basketball in his front yard when the ball rolled into the street. When he ran to retrieve it, the preteen was confronted by officers with their weapons drawn who began to pursue him. Legend thought the cops were upset with him for not practicing the right street safety.

“I ran because [I thought that] they thought that I rolled the ball into the street on purpose, and they were just holding shotguns at me trying to shoot me,” he told the station.

Thankfully, neighbors saw the chase and prevented the cops from pursuing the 10-year-old further, yelling that they were after “a child.” According to the New York Daily News, the neighbors formed a “human shield” to prevent the occurrence of a tragedy, like those captured with frightening frequency on cellphone videos gone viral in recent years.

Via her Facebook page, Legend’s mother—who was inside the house as the incident was unfolding—claims the cops countered by stating her son “match[ed] the description.”

“The [Newark PD] chased down my 10-year-old son with loaded shotguns ready to shoot because they said he matched the description of the over 6-foot-tall man, dark skin with long locs... which my son is none of,” Legend's mother, Patisha Solomon, wrote on the social media site. “They had pictures of the perp who was in eyesight running down the next block!!! Yet they broke off from chasing the perp to chasing my child.”  

The actual suspect, Casey Joseph Robinson—a 20-year-old man—was later apprehended on armed robbery charges.

A 2014 study from the American Psychological Association found that, “Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.” The study, in part, was based on tests given to 176 police officers, the majority of whom were white, in their mid-to-late 30s and working in urban centers.

The report concluded, “perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults. With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

The childhood denied to African-American children can have terrifying, and in some cases fatal consequences. In Legend Preston's case, quick-thinking neighbors may have made the difference between life and death. But the traumatic imprint of that experience will likely remain.

“Why try to abuse our children and turn our young men into fearful heartless men? My son is in counseling, even scared to go play because it happened right at our house... You despicable cops have no care for our children... My fun-loving child is forever changed!” Solomon said in her Facebook post.

After the incident, she posted video of her visibly upset son on Facebook.

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Kali Holloway is a senior writing fellow and the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute.