The father of an 8-year-old boy detained by police in Syracuse, New York, this week for allegedly stealing a bag of potato chips said his son was treated as though he killed somebody.
Anthony Weah told NBC affiliate WSTM of Syracuse it hurt him to watch video of his sobbing son being detained by an officer.
Police need to be held accountable for Sunday's incident, Weah said.
A bystander recorded a video that had generated 5.8 million views as of Thursday afternoon.
NBC News does not know what occurred before the bystander began recording."You can’t treat him like that because of a bag of chips like he killed somebody. He’s not a criminal,” Weah said.
“Today, they done it to my ... to my child,” he said. “Tomorrow, they will do the same thing to another kid. So today I’m more concerned about kids in general. They shouldn’t be treated like that,” WSTM reported.
Syracuse police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Weah’s statements Thursday.
The incident prompted an internal investigation in which officers’ body cameras will be reviewed, police said. The child was never handcuffed. He was driven home and released without any charges’ being filed, police said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the video was difficult to watch. She has spoken to Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh about it, she said.
“Let me just say as a mother that was a heart-wrenching video to witness,” Hochul said Wednesday in Syracuse. “A child weeping, being pulled by the police officers in the back of a police car over a bag of potato chips, at least that’s what the evidence says right now. ...
“The mayor and I talked about this. Building the trust back between the community and the police is so important that it has to start,” she said. “It is starting, and you know, it’s just the realization that Black and brown communities all over our state and all over our country, they’re not shocked as others are to see this, because they’ve been conditioned to different kind of treatment from policing agencies and others throughout their lives.”
The bystander video begins when a man off camera asks the officer holding the boy by his arms what police are doing and shortly after commenting that the child “looks like a baby to me.”
Another officer appears and tells the man: “He’s stealing stuff. If he breaks into your house and steals something —.” His voice then becomes inaudible.
The off-camera voice then questions whether the incident is over an alleged stolen bag of potato chips: “Y’all treat him like a hard-core, blooded f------ killer.”
The officer then says: “Keep walking dude. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
Walsh said in a statement that what occurred demonstrates the continued need to support children and families while investing in alternative responses “to assist our officers.”
“When the online video was first shared with me on Monday, I was concerned. I asked Chief Buckner and the SPD to review all body worn camera footage, which is ongoing,” the mayor said, referring to Police Chief Kenton Buckner.
“Based on what I have seen, the body camera footage demonstrates no handcuffs were used by officers at any time. The child was placed in the back of a patrol car and taken home to his family. The officer knew the child from prior interactions and explained to him that he was being taken home. The officers returned the child to his family and discussed the incident with his father before leaving without filing any charges.”
WSTM also spoke with the bystander, Kenneth Jackson, who shot the video. Jackson said he did not believe the police handled the matter correctly.
“There’s a way that the police need to interact with kids, and what they did that day was completely unacceptable,” Jackson said.