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Body camera footage shows Black family held at gunpoint after police typo IDs car as stolen

Frisco Police Chief David Shilson said the department “will not hide from its mistakes" after a typo by an officer identified the family's license plate as from the wrong state.
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Texas police held a Black family at gunpoint earlier this month after a typo lead police to wrongly believe their car was stolen. During the incident, an officer admitted to identifying the family's license as being from Arizona, rather than their home state of Arkansas.

The incident, which unfolded on July 23 in Frisco, Texas, was captured on multiple officers' body cameras. The emotional footage, released Saturday, shows several members of the Frisco Police Department demanding the family — who identified themselves as husband, wife, their son and nephew — exit the car. They identified the boys as 12 and 13 years old.

An officer also pointed his gun at at least one of the children and handcuffed him, according to the footage.

An Arkansas family is held at gunpoint by police who falsely believed  their car was stolen.
An Arkansas family is held at gunpoint by police who falsely believed their car was stolen.Frisco Police Dept.

At one point, the officer who ran the family's plates admits her error. “It looks like I made a mistake. So I ran it ‘AZ’ for Arizona instead of ‘AR,’ and that’s what happened,” she says, according to the footage.

Later, the husband becomes emotional and says: “It could’ve went all wrong for us though.”

“If I would’ve went to reach for my phone, we could’ve all got killed,” he says, before walking away sobbing.

NBC News was not immediately able to identify or reach the family members involved in the incident.

In a statement released Friday, Frisco Police Chief David Shilson said the department “made a mistake” and “will not hide from its mistakes.”

“Instead, we will learn from them,” Shilson said. “The officer involved quickly accepted responsibility for what happened, which speaks to integrity.”

Body camera footage shows emotional scene

Body camera footage from the officer — who later admitted to incorrectly identifying the license plate — shows police with their guns raised, demanding members of the family exit their car on the Dallas North Tollway. Officers had closed down the southbound lanes while responding to the incident, according to information released by the Frisco Police Department.

The mother and her son exited the car while the father and nephew remained inside, according to the footage.

Body camera footage from another officer at the scene shows officers forcing one of the children to walk backwards from the car with his hands raised as at least one officer points a gun at him. 

After exiting, the mother, who was driving the car tells the officer that she is from Little Rock, Arkansas, has always had that registration for that car, and has "never been in trouble a day in my life," according to the footage from the officer who made the typo.

The mother also informs officers that there's a gun locked in her glove compartment and that she's licensed to carry a gun.

The mother then looks over towards her son, and asks, “Is he in cuffs? This is very traumatizing," according to the video.

“Why is my baby in cuffs?” she wails. “What are y’all doing?”

“They’re just detaining him, it doesn’t mean anything,” the officer responds.

“No,” the woman yells, prompting the officer to tell her to “stop” four times.

Moment officer realizes error

Soon after, the officer walks away from the woman, appears to spend a few seconds checking something in the police vehicle and then approaches another officer and says, "I don't understand."

The other officer asks, "Did you not run that out of Arkansas?"

The officer responds, "I did — AR."

Body camera footage then shows the officer explaining the situation to the husband, whose name is muted on the footage, and one of the boys, whose face is blurred.

"I ran your tag, it came back to, associated essentially with no vehicle," the officer told the man.

"So I confirmed it with my dispatch — I'm like, 'That's weird,'" the officer says.

Soon after, the footage appears to feature another police officer saying in the background, “She ran it out of the wrong state."

The officer who made the typo protests and says, "AR, AR is Arkansas, correct?"

Appearing to look at the officer's initial computer search in the cruiser, another officer responds: "It's Arizona though. It's not Arizona."

"Oh, I see what you're saying," the officer responds. "That's on me."

Body camera footage shows a different officer informing another officer — who still had his gun pointed toward the car with the husband and nephew inside — of the mistake. The officers then put their guns down, and four officers approach the car, none of whom made the error.

"Listen bro, we just here for a basketball tournament," the husband tells police as one of the boys cries in the back of the car.

"We just learned, right now, that's why we stopped," an officer responds.

"Don't do this to my son, bro," the husband wails.

After the husband and boy get out of the car, footage from an officer at the scene shows him explaining the mistake to the young boy who was crying in the back of the car, saying, "We're so sorry you had to go through that."

The rest of the footage shows officers repeatedly apologizing to the family and the officer who made incorrectly identified the plate admitting the error.

A family member appears to say, “It’s fine.” The officer responds: “It’s not fine, and whatever happens to me, I’ll deal with that.”

The officer also tells the wife, who had been driving the car: "This is all my fault. I apologize for this. I know it was very traumatic for you and your nephew and your son. And like I said, it’s on me. There are consequences that come with that."

The video ends with the officer who made the error shaking hands with the husband after he calms down. The husband tells the officer, "It's all good."

Officer’s error led to stop, police chief says

A news release from the department states also shed more light on how the situation unfolded and how the error was made.

An officer from the Frisco Police Department “observed a black Dodge Charger with an out of state license plate leaving a hotel” and checked the car’s Arkansas license plate “due to recent burglaries and vehicle thefts in which Chargers are frequently stolen.”

“The officer then initiated a high-risk traffic stop on the Dallas North Tollway, which is standard procedure for stolen vehicles,” the department’s news release said.

But the officer accidentally entered the license plate as being from Arizona, according to the department. When a sergeant arrived on the scene, they “realized the mistake and immediately ordered officers to ‘stand down’ and ended the high-risk stop,” according to information from the department.

The news release states the department initiated an incident review the same day of the incident “to determine what happened, how it was managed, and to evaluate what needed to be addressed to prevent this from happening in the future.”

The initial assessment revealed the need for officers to accurately enter information, according to the department, which also promised that “an ongoing review will identify further changes to training, policies, and procedures.”

Shilson, the police chief, said he has spoken with the family, adding, “I empathize with them and completely understand why they’re upset. I apologized on behalf of our department and assured them that we will hold ourselves accountable and provide transparency through the process.”

“This incident does not reflect the high standard of service that our officers provide on a daily basis to our residents, businesses and visitors,” Shilson said.

Grant Cottingham, public information officer for the Frisco Police Department, said in a statement that “the incident is still under review, and any discipline related to it has yet to be determined.”