GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An incident about two weeks ago in which five black teens were detained at gunpoint after officers got a report of a gun continues to reverberate at Grand Rapids City Hall.
Tuesday night, dozens of community members attended the City Commission’s meeting to say that changes need to be made. It was standing room only in the commission chambers, with many wearing stickers that read, “#wouldyoupullagunonme.”
The incident that sparked the outrage happened on the evening of March 24, when a group of five black teens, ages 12 through 14, left the Salvation Army Kroc Center on South Division Avenue after playing basketball and headed home.
Around that time, the Grand Rapids Police Department got a call about a fight involving 100 people that allegedly broke out at the Kroc. Responding officers were told that a teen walking with a group was armed with a gun. An officer determined the teens matched the description and ordered them face-down on the ground.
None of the teens were actually armed.
“On March 24, that’s when our whole lives are changed, our boys and the other mothers, too,” Ikeshia Quinn, mother of two of the boys, told commissioners Tuesday. “We’re not asking for much. We just want our boys to get apologized to.”
GRPD Chief David Rahinsky apologized to the teens involved.
“I apologize to the young men and their families,” he said. “A sincere apology, and an explanation that the officers involved were following up on specific information in our ongoing efforts to keep everyone in this community safe.”
The chief said his officers acted professionally.
That was not enough for many who spoke at the meeting and said that every officer involved should offer individual, public apologies to the youths.
Community members also said that the problem is representative of systemic racism that continues to plague GRPD. They said there should be changes in protocol and policy.
“What if one of our babies had made the wrong move and they wouldn’t be here with us tonight? Would you be OK with saying it’s proper protocol then?” asked Shawndryka Moore, the mother of another of the boys involved.
The local chapter of the NAACP demanded that in addition to apologies within 24 hours, the city immediately put together a plan for change.
Commissioners did not say what would come next.