Police departments and their supporters can defend their actions all they want. They can even try and lean on the old and tired excuse that police shootings of unarmed people of color are a rarity. They’d be wrong, but they can still try. But one thing they can’t do, is tell people that they shouldn’t be afraid of police. Not after incidents like the one a young black boy in New Jersey experienced which could’ve easily escalated and resulted in his arrest or worse, death.

According to WABC-TV, Legend Preston, 10, was playing with a basketball by his house in Newark, New Jersey when the ball rolled out into the street. He went after it, only to see police officers running towards him with their guns drawn. Out of fear, he ran. 

“I ran because they thought that I rolled the ball into the street on purpose, and they were just holding shot guns at me trying to shoot me,” Legend said.

New Jersey Police did admit to having their guns drawn, but denied actually pointing them at Preston, who they had apparently mistaken for a 20-year-old armed robbery suspect in the area.

It’s alarming that police officers would mistake a fifth-grader for an adult. Especially to the point where they’re so sure that they’re willing to chase him with guns drawn. It’s not much of a leap to say that this innocent, terrified child was a “reach for his waistband,” toy gun, or miscommunication away from being tied to yet another horrible tragedy involving police.

Fortunately, witnesses intervened to let the officers know that the person they had detained wasn’t even old enough to do pretty much anything without a parent’s permission.

“These policemen who had guns drawn on my child are still on these streets,” said Patisha Preston, Legend’s mother.

Someone is sure to make the defense of “Why did he run if he didn’t do anything wrong?” Well, to put it simply, the feelings of safety and security that many people get from interactions with police officers are often replaced with feelings of fear and caution when you are a Black American. Not only that, even the Justice Department has found major discrepancies of policing and predatory practices that disproportionately harm people of color.

If the perception of police had gotten so bad that a 10-year-old runs from officers on sight, that’s a serious PR disaster. You’ve got to start asking yourself what did you do to make him so afraid? Well, besides running towards him with guns raised.

The optimist in me hopes that things aren’t so dire that we can’t even let Black kids play in front of their own homes. The realist in me knows better.

Photo Courtesy: Legend Preston (Facebook)