Activists: Chief must fire Lansing officer seen choking teen in video

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - A group of activists is calling for the police chief in south suburban Lansing to fire a white officer apparently seen choking a black teenager on a video that has been viewed nearly 3 million times on social media.

At a press conference Wednesday outside the Lansing Police Department, former violence interrupter and gubernatorial candidate Tio Hardiman called the incident a clear case of “police brutality” and “excessive force.”

Eric A. Russell, activist banker and founder of Tree of Life—Justice League of Illinois, spoke at the press conference and posted on Facebook: “Today we served noticed to the Lansing Police department demanding the firing of the white off duty police officer” who choked the boy, whom he claimed suffers from asthma.

Chicago Police torture survivor Mark Clements called the officer’s actions a “clear act of child abuse.” He called on the mayor and police chief to fire the officer or to resign.

“It is up to you to take action or resign. You must be held accountable for these young children who are being terrorized by the Lansing Police Department,” Clements said.

As of Wednesday, the officer remained on active duty as police investigate the incident and the circumstances that led up to it.

A statement from police issued Monday read: “The Lansing Police Department is aware of the video that has been subsequently posted on social media regarding the incident, and had initiated an investigation into the matter prior to its public posting.”

That video had been shared on social media over 2.8 million times as of Wednesday afternoon. It was posted by the aunt of the one of the two boys involved in the incident.

Russell said at the press conference that the boy’s family has filed a police report and hired a top civil rights attorney. He called the officer a “bad neighbor and reckless police officer.”

Police said were called about 3:45 p.m. Saturday to reports of a fight involving a number of juveniles at 192nd and Oakwood, a statement from police said. In the aftermath of the brawl, a white teen came into the off-duty officer’s yard bleeding from the face, police said.

The 15-year-old said he “was involved in a fight in which he was beaten up by several male black juveniles”

Another teen, a 15-year-old black boy, then came into the yard, also wearing a backpack, police said. The boy’s family said he was only there trying to help his friend who was injured.

Both boys “attempted to leave” but the officer told them to wait for police. When they refused, the officer “physically detained one of the juveniles,” the black boy, while the other filmed the incident with his cellphone.

On the video, the officer can be seen choking and threatening to strike the boy, while the other teen pleads for him to be released.

In a profanity-laced tirade, the officer accused them of trespassing, calls them “idiots” and threatens to kill them.

The boys were turned over to responding officers, and taken home pending further investigation, police said. As of Wednesday, no charges had been filed in the case, nor the brawl that preceded it. That brawl, which a 911 caller said involved up to 30 juveniles, had already ended when police arrived.

A relative of the boy being held wrote on Facebook: “So this is what happens when you walk on someone’s grass. My little cousin is damn near killed. This guy is a LANSING POLICE OFFICER and our family can’t get anywhere filing a report on him. I reed FB to share and share, this needs to go VIRAL!! I’m sick of walking while black being a problem! As you can hear his friend videoing is not black but he’s not being harassed!!”

Police are asking anyone with “direct information” about the incident to call (708) 895-7150.

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