Father of a 12-year-old detained while taking out trash says he will not accept a police apology

The father of a 12-year-old Black boy who was briefly detained by police while taking out the trash at his home in Lansing, Michigan, said Monday he cannot bring himself to accept an apology from the city’s police department.

“I will never accept an apology. My son did not deserve to be treated the way they treat(ed) him. No way, no shape or form,” Michael Bernard told CNN. “Justice for my son. That’s all I want. Nothing else.”

Bernard, who had been washing dishes in the kitchen, became concerned when his son Tashawn Bernard didn’t come back from taking out the trash. He went outside to check on his son, only to find him in handcuffs.

Tashawn Bernard is handcuffed by police while taking out the trash. - @careyann327/TikTok
Tashawn Bernard is handcuffed by police while taking out the trash. - @careyann327/TikTok

Tashawn later told his father he was walking back to his apartment after placing the trash in the dumpster, when a police vehicle approached him. Tashawn said an officer got out of the vehicle and unholstered his gun.

The boy was then put in handcuffs, his father said, before being placed in the back of a police car.

Bernard said he asked the officer to explain why his son had been detained, but the officer said he would explain “in a little while.”

“I said, ‘No, I don’t want – I want you to tell me right now why my son is in handcuffs,’” Bernard recalled, adding that his son appeared to be scared. “Once he saw my presence, it gave him that comfort, his daddy is here.”

A video of the incident has been widely shared on social media.

On Friday, the Lansing Police Department said their officers had been searching for a suspect in a string of car thefts. The boy, police said, was “wearing similar clothing and in the same apartment complex as an accused car thief who fled from officers on foot.”

According to police, a witness had described the car theft suspect as wearing neon shorts and a white shirt.

But one of the family’s attorneys, Rico Neal, told CNN that though he was wearing neon shorts, Tashawn had on a “light gray or light bluish shirt,” not a white one. Neal also said Tashawn was wearing “totally different shoes.”

The Lansing Police Department has issued a statement apologizing to the Bernard family.

“I want to apologize that this incident had such an effect on this young man and his family,” Chief Ellery Sosebee said in the statement Friday. He also asked for the community to consider “all the facts of the situation before making a judgment.”

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor also apologized and said the department had been in contact with the family to offer resources and support “for any trauma involved.”

“Our officers do their absolute best to protect Lansing, but in this case a mistake was made, and we own it and apologize to those affected,” Schor said.

Neal told CNN instead of an apology, his client wants to see accountability for the officers involved in the incident.

“If you want to issue us an apology, tell us what’s happening to those officers because my client continues to deal with the stress and the trauma that was impacted on him by this ordeal while they just walk away,” Neal said.

CNN has reached out to the Lansing Police Department for additional comment.

On Monday, attorneys representing the family told CNN they were continuing to investigate the incident before deciding if they would pursue legal action against the city.

Family attorneys said they are working to ensure Tashawn receives “justice.”

CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian and Jennifer Rivera contributed to this report.

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