Today, parents are increasingly aware of the importance of talking to their children about how to interact with the police.
However, some kids learn what to do when pulled over or confronted by an officer before that conversation can take place – from firsthand experience.
That was the case for a toddler from Tallahassee, Florida whose father was arrested on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 as a suspect for armed theft.
A witness filmed the arrest and caught the moment when the 2-year-old girl climbed down from the bed of the suspect’s truck and approached the police with arms raised, imitating the way her parents had behaved.
When the video was first posted online, many viewers believed it was the child herself who was being arrested. They were appalled that the officers were pointing their guns at the truck as her tiny bare feet emerged – and she cautiously tip-toed forward with her hands haloed around her head, looking more like a ballerina than a criminal.
However, a closer look at the footage shows the girl’s father in handcuffs standing next to the police vehicle – and, at the end, her mother comes over to pick her up.
There is also a police bodycam video which provides a different perspective on the arrest. It clearly shows how the toddler walked toward the police of her own accord without being asked to leave the truck.
The bodycam video shows the police comforting the child, saying that she was OK and urging her to go toward her mother. They also allowed the child’s father to call to her when she was hesitant.
After the girl reaches her father, her mother swoops in to pick her up and take her to the other side of the truck, where it is revealed officers are struggling to take another child – a 1-year-old boy – out of his car seat (which appears to be improperly installed, as it is facing sideways).
As the children’s mother hands her daughter over to an officer and begins to take her son out of his car seat, the assisting officer’s bodycam shows a visible weapon – which was later found to be a pellet gun.
To the relief of many viewers of the original post on social media, both suspects are male – and well over two feet tall and out of diapers. Chad Bom, 34, and James McMullen, 38, were charged with second-degree theft.
While the mother is still a suspect in assisting with the theft, she was permitted to take the children home with her while her husband and another man were arrested.
Police Chief Michael DeLeo says that the confusion from the original video was easily corrected by the footage on the officer’s bodycam.
“This incident demonstrates the value of body-worn cameras providing a different perspective of the same incident,” he said in an interview with Virginia-based news station WTVR.