The San Diego Police Department released officer-worn camera footage from a Tuesday traffic stop in Hillcrest in response to community speculation over whether or not an officer pointed his gun at a 9-year-old boy during the incident, a department spokesperson said Wednesday.
The local blog site SanDiegoVille.com reshared a still image to their private Instagram page that they and other social media users allege shows an officer pointing a gun at a boy as he exited the passenger seat of a vehicle following the traffic stop. The same site later posted the full video to their YouTube page.
"The body worn camera footage is being released due to misinformation which is circulating on social media regarding this incident. We hope the release of this video will provide clarity as to what occurred," SDPD said in a statement Wednesday.
The incident occurred after a motorcycle officer attempted to stop a speeding car along Park Boulevard, just north of Balboa Park at about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday, according to SDPD. The department said the car was going 70 mph in a 40 mph zone and didn't stop when the officer turned on his lights and siren, so the officer called for backup.
The car came to a stop at Park Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue. It was unclear how far the driver had traveled after the officer initiated the traffic stop.
What happens next was captured on video by both police and a bystander.
From the witness's vantage point, several officers can be seen grouped behind the vehicle with their guns drawn as they call for the driver to step out. The driver steps out with his hands up and follows officers' commands to face away and walk backward toward officers.
Then, an officer calls for the boy to step out. All the while, one officer keeps his gun pointed towards the vehicle.
In the officer-worn camera footage released by SDPD, the driver can be heard asking the officer to draw his gun away from his son, who he says is 9 years old.
The still image from the witness's video was circulated on social media where many criticized the officer for allegedly pointing a weapon towards the child.
But SDPD says that is not what happened.
"...there has been speculation on social media that the officer pointed the gun at a child. This is incorrect. The officer never pointed his firearm at the child and maintained his aim at the vehicle," SDPD said in a statement Wednesday. "The initial motorcycle officer holstered his service weapon and directed the boy to walk towards him which he did. The child was not handcuffed and walked away with the officer."
In footage released by SDPD, an officer is seen walking the boy away from the car and sitting him down on a curb. There, he tells the boy he isn't in trouble and explains why his father was pulled over and why officers drew their guns.
The witness's footage shows a member of PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) speaking with the boy while officers search the vehicle.
SDPD said they did not charge the driver for evading an officer "after receiving an explanation for why he did not yield to the officer's lights and siren." But the driver was issued a misdemeanor citation for reckless driving. His vehicle was also impounded for unknown reasons.
Wednesday night, Mayor Todd Gloria said formal complaints about the incident will be reviewed.
""There is no doubt that it is disturbing to see the image of a child holding his hands up while a police officer has his weapon drawn. It was important to me to quickly release the body-worn camera footage of the incident so everyone could see the truth of what occurred. Our City’s Commission on Police Practices will review any formal complaints about this incident," Gloria said in a statement.
San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe, who chairs the council's Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods, called on SDPD to re-examine how children are treated during traffic stops.
“As we work to reimagine public safety in our city, we must normalize honestly acknowledging when trauma has been inflicted on our residents, which further erodes the fabric of trust within out communities of color. My heart is heavy today, as we have seen trauma unfold for this young child during a traffic stop. I call upon the San Diego Police Department to review how children are treated during traffic stops, and thoroughly detail what resources are available to mitigate the impact of these traumatic events," the councilmember said.
By around 6:30 p.m., SDPD was setting up a barricade around its headquarters downtown in advance of possible demonstrations. At around 8:30 p.m., about a dozen people had shown up.