Who Took Video of Baltimore Mom Beating Would-Be Rioter Son?

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/ Source: NBC News
By Amber Payne

Baltimore native Tommy Bourne happened to catch an angle of the infamous video of Toya Graham.

The image of Graham literally laying the smack down on her son and beating him away from joining rioters has been celebrated as a mother who did what she had to do to get her son off the streets.

"It was probably a life-saving thing for that kid, it probably saved a lot of grief," said Bourne, who grew up in West Baltimore and says a lot of the looting took place near his childhood home.

Bourne was out on his lunch break. He saw a flash of yellow — that was Ms. Graham, standing out among the pack of young men in a canary yellow top — and he followed her as she scolded her son.

"That's what was sorely needed yesterday," said Bourne. "There are a lot of kids who didn't have the guidance in their life to stop them from doing what they did. I immediately after that called my mom to let her know I was okay."

Tommy Bourne was at work near the Mondawmin Mall when he couldn't help but notice from his social media feeds that the streets outside his office were filling with students. He took lunch and walked over to the action.

From the neighboring high school across the street, dozens of students had converged and began to approach police lines.

"They have valid reasons to be angry, but it's almost like they don't know any better. All they know is lashing out and being violent. It doesn't make them thugs, it doesn't make them anything other than kids that need love," said Bourne.

By the time Bourne walked over to the mall, the officers were restricting entry: Anyone 21 and under was not being allowed inside. Bourne walked to the bus stop next to the mall, a strategic staging area because "every high school has a bus that will take you to that station," he explained.

Initially the students held a peaceful presence, with nothing being thrown but words. And then someone threw a bottle. "Then it got ugly, they started throwing rocks," recalled Bourne.

Ms. Graham’s actions were singled out by Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts in a press conference on Monday night: "You had one mother who grabbed her child who had a hood on his head and she started smacking him on the head because she was so embarrassed. I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight."

Tommy Bourne would have to agree.

"All those kids needed someone like that to step in."

In an interview with CBS News, Graham said her primary concern was protecting her son.

"He gave me eye contact. And at that point, you know, not even thinking about cameras or anything like that," Graham said. "That's my only son and at the end of the day I don't want him to be a Freddie Gray."