Black Teen Riding in Car With Grandmother Detained by Police After Witness Reports Robbery Attempt

Dashcam footage from the scene showed officers directing the teen to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward them

A black teenager who was riding in a car with his white grandmother and her friend was handcuffed by police in Wisconsin after they received a report that he may have been trying to rob the women in the vehicle.

According to authorities, a man and a woman flagged down a Wauwatosa police officer just before noon Sunday and told him a robbery had either just occurred or was in progress. The pair said "the suspects were two black males in the back seat of a blue Lexus," and pointed out the car to police, authorities said.

Dashcam footage released by the Wauwatosa Police Department shows officers pulling the Lexus over and directing the teen to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward them. He is then ordered to his knees before officers handcuff him. At least one officer is seen drawing his gun in the video. 

"This is a trained vehicle contact procedure which is used by officers in many different circumstances,” the department said in a statement. 

Police Capt. Brian Zalewski said the officers did draw their guns “based on the original information of possible violent crime,” but added that they kept their weapons "pointed in a safe direction.”

The teen was detained in the back of a squad car for six minutes “on reasonable suspicion,” police said.

The women in the car turned out to be the teen’s grandmother and her best friend.

Dashcam video shows the officers approaching the Lexus and asking if they are Ok. The grandmother identifies the teen as her grandson and tells the officers they were on their way home from church. One of the officers, realizing there had been a misunderstanding, explains why they were pulled over and recounts the tip they'd received.  

“I'm sure [the witnesses] saw two old white ladies in a car with a black kid and made assumptions,” the woman is heard telling the officer.

When the officer tells her the person who reported it was also black, she responds, "that’s even worse."

In a separate video from inside the police cruiser, a female officer questioning the teen tells him the incident appears to be a "big misunderstanding" before releasing him to his grandmother. 

When officers returned to scene where they were approached by the couple, the two had left and have not been located for a statement, authorities said.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing the teen said she has filed a request for all records associated with the case, but added that "the evidence as it currently stands" appears to show a bias.

"When we get those records we will know more on what our course of action is," she said. 

The police department, however, stands by the actions of its officers. 

“The officers acted professional during the entire interaction,” Zalewski said in a statement.

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