Outrage after 13-year-old boy is arrested for selling roses outside of a Walmart

A 13-year-old boy was forcibly arrested at a Walmart in South Carolina, sparking a wave of community rage against the officers engaged in the arrest. According to recently released bodycam footage, two Summerville Police officers confronted a young boy who was purportedly selling palmetto flowers in front of a Walmart store on April 1.

According to the Atlanta Black Star, the police department mentioned that Officers Dante Ghi and Katherine Kirkland, who worked in the hospitality division, responded to complaints that two people were loitering and selling roses at Walmart.

When the police ordered the teens to leave over the PA system in their patrol car when they initially arrived at the location, they refused to comply, so they confronted the boys, the police said. The police chose to detain one of the teens after several attempts to get him to identify himself failed and he became “uncooperative” and “confrontational” with them, according to the officers.

As per a police report, the boy “resisted” detainment by pushing Ghi into a wall, and when Kirkland attempted to hold the boy’s arm with a handcuff, the boy “struck” her in the face with a “closed fist.”

However, in the bodycam footage released by police, officers approach the teen and inquire about his identification and whether he has a business license. One says, “I was going to try to be nice, but you got your I.D. on you, man?”

When the young man asks, “Why?” one officer responds, “You’re getting ready to go to jail is why.”

The boy admitted to selling roses and started swearing at the officers, but never showed any aggressive or threatening behavior toward them.

Following an altercation in which both policemen attempted to subdue the youngster, Officer Ghi grabbed the young man’s arm. Though viewers cannot see the kid punch Kirkland, the police presented a photo taken later that indicates a bruise beneath her right eye.

In the scenes that follow, Ghi pushes the boy to the ground as Kirkland pulls her taser out and threatens to use it against him. 

Nonetheless, cellphone footage that has now gone viral, with many netizens criticizing the conduct, shows Ghi using his weight to violently push the boy’s head down between his thighs while Kirkland ties him from behind.

Ghi made that “grappling motion,” according to Summerville Police Lieutenant Shaun Tumbleston, to keep the boy “from standing up and to prevent the risk of the individual trying to escape or assault another police officer.”

The teen, whose identity was not revealed because he is a child, was charged with assaulting an officer and then released to his parents. The other teen who was with him was also charged with trespassing.

Previous incident reports identified many companies that had issued complaints about stealing by kids selling palmetto flowers, according to the Post-Courier. Trespass notices for undetermined periods were sent to a few of the peddlers who were regulars in the retail area next to the Walmart where the kid was arrested. Walmart had already issued an active trespass notice to the teenager charged with trespassing.

However, the boy’s family representative, State Rep. Martin Pendarvis, pointed out that his client had never received a notification and had never engaged in shoplifting. The child was trying to make an “honest buck,” he asserted, as he was on spring vacation that week and sold rose-shaped flowers made with palmetto palm fronds “quite often.”

According to the lawyer, “This was an overreaction. This was an escalation. There was no attempt to try to de-escalate the event from the time that they approached him. It’s not uncommon, whether it’s Girl Scouts or church groups or little league groups, to gather in front of storefronts, selling cookies, selling lemonade, selling whatever, to make an honest buck, to raise money for particular situations. If there were Girl Scouts set up there, would the results have been the same?”

A few days after the incident, community members staged a demonstration because they had been angered by Officer Ghi’s physical aggression. Some questioned why he remained on duty after he was dismissed from the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 for pushing a man’s head against the hood of his vehicle.

Ghi allegedly resigned from the North Charleston Police Department in 2018 before police authorities completed their internal investigation into a policy breach, according to Live 5. The violations were upheld. In that same year, he detained two teenagers at a mall for breaking mall rules by remaining there after 6 p.m. without an adult chaperone. The teens did have a chaperone, but that individual was shopping at another store when Ghi arrested the teens.

Roughly two weeks after leaving the North Charleston police, he was employed by Summerville Police.

Dollita Okine

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