An 8-year-old boy was handcuffed for nearly an hour by Chicago police executing a search warrant on the city’s South Side earlier this year, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Alberta Wilson said she woke up to scores of Chicago police and SWAT officers arriving at her family’s home in the early morning hours on March 15. The officers ordered Wilson and her three children – ages 6, 8 and 9 – out of their home as they a executed a search warrant with their guns drawn. After the family exited the home, Wilson said she and her 8-year-old son were put in cuffs.
"Hold on, stay strong, and keep watching mommy," Wilson recalled telling the child as the pair stood cuffed.
Chicago police confirmed a search warrant was executed at the home in the 8900 block of South Laflin that day.
"In this instance officers had information that there was an assault rifle located inside a residence," Sgt. Rocco Alioto said in a statement.
Officers searched the home for the assualt rifle, tearing open walls as they went, the suit states. No weapon was found, no charges were filed and no arrests were made, according to Wilson’s attorney Al Hofeld.
"Due to the risk involved with a weapon that could penetrate body armor, the occupants of the residence followed verbal direction given over a public address system and exited the residence without needing to breach the door," Alioto’s statement read. "The target of the search warrant was on scene, and while there was no weapon located during the search, the location searched was the same as described on the search warrant."
The police department does not have a protocol to handcuff children, authorities said, noting that officers did not know the age of the child at the time and eventually released the boy to a family-approved adult.
"He’s a baby," Wilson said. "Where is your leadership?"
Wilson’s suit alleged the boy suffers from PTSD following the March incident.
"They gave her zero information about how to deal with the overwhelming physical damage to her house," Hofeld said. "Officers did not ever apologize or explain their actions to the children."
Hofeld said the Wilson family’s case is his sixth one involving use of force on children by Chicago police. That’s why he applauds a recent amendment to House Bill 51, which passed the Senate Tuesday and would require trauma-informed response training geared toward children for officers in Illinois.
"We need policing rules that say, unequivocally, you can’t point guns at children, you can’t handcuff children," he said. "You must find out in advance if children will be present in the residence."
The bill now sits in the House.