Unarmed Arlington teen misidentified by police who drew guns at him

Courtesy: Star-Telegram archives
·3 min read

A 16-year-old boy was getting ready for a swim Monday at the apartment complex where he lives when he was surrounded by multiple Arlington police officers with their guns drawn.

“I was very terrified. I was so terrified, I couldn’t move my body. I was standing like a statue the entire time,” Rykeem Johnson, who was unarmed, told WFAA-TV. “They told me to put some weapon down. I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson from the Arlington Police Department said officers were dispatched to a complaint from a nearby resident that a man was outside his door wearing a hoodie and holding a towel over a gun.

The caller told dispatchers that he had been receiving online threats and “believed the person at his door with a firearm was the same person making the threats,” police said.

Responding officers said that Johnson, who was carrying a towel on his way to the pool, matched the 911 caller’s description of the suspect. Police said they “attempted to detain (Johnson) by pointing their weapons at the subject and gave verbal commands for him to show officers his hands,” adding that the 16-year-old was “non-responsive to officers’ commands, and did not remove the towel from his hands.”

Johnson told WFAA that he was frozen in fear, and that as more officers arrived at his apartment, he grew more confused and scared, thinking that he was going to be killed outside his home.

“The only thing they said to me was, ‘Sorry for the misunderstanding. We apologize.’ That wasn’t enough for me. They had me at gunpoint, scared for my life,” the teen said.

His older brother, and guardian, Dr. Relius Johnson told WFAA that he arrived at the Hudson Apartments complex after receiving a shelter-in-place call and he saw at least 30 police cars and four snipers.

The police department confirmed that responding officers “maintain[ed] their distance,” from the teen, and as the incident continued, additional assistance, including a SWAT team was called to the scene.

Relius Johnson said he didn’t know his teenage brother was at the center of the chaos until he called him.

“My brother answered the phone,” the teen told WFAA. “I burst into tears saying, ‘Come save me! They are about to shoot me.”

Relius Johnson also told WFAA he was ignored by officers when he began telling them they had the wrong person.

The police department realized the boy wasn’t the suspect after “conducting further investigation with the original 911 caller, and officers noted consistency issues that caused investigative concern,” the police statement said.

“APD slowed down its actions so that we could be sure that we were proceeding appropriately given the circumstances,” the police department added. “Eventually APD’s Tactical Unit was able to make responsive verbal contact with the subject (Johnson) and he agreed to show officers his hands and come down the stairs and meet with officers.”

The 16-year-old was detained, but not arrested, and was later released to a family member. The police department said it offered counseling and additional services to the family.

Relius Johnson told WFAA that he’s conflicted and angry, adding that though he’s happy his brother is safe, he still is upset about the traumatizing situation.

An investigation into the original 911 call remains ongoing.