A fight over $5 between Bronx school children escalated to the point where the police were called and a seven-year-old boy was arrested, handcuffed, and kept in custody for 10 hours, according to the child's family, who is threatening to sue the city for $250 million. When Wilson Reyes' mother Frances Mendez arrived at the 44th Precinct, she was shocked to see her son handcuffed to the wall. Mendez said, "My son was crying, ‘Mommy, it wasn’t me! Mommy, it wasn’t me!’ I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We’re traumatized... Imagine how I felt seeing my son in handcuffs! It was horrible. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing."
According to the Post reporters who spoke to Mendez and took a photograph of her with the boy, the whole mess started when there was a fight over another child's $5:
The money, which was supposed to be used for a school trip that never happened, had fallen on the ground in front of Wilson and two other boys, and one of them scooped it up. Wilson was falsely accused of taking it, and he scuffled with one of the kids.
Officers showed up at PS X114 on Dec. 4 at about 10:20 a.m., and handcuffed and held Wilson in a room there for four hours. They then hauled him off to the 44th Precinct station house for another six hours of interrogation and verbal abuse, according to a $250 million claim against the city and the NYPD.
According to legal documents, another child admitted to stealing the money. But that's little comfort for Mendez, who says that police refused to let her see her son: "When cops finally allowed the pair to see the boy, they found the panicked kid seated in a shabby chair with his left wrist cuffed to the wall, Mendez said. She quickly snapped a damning photo of the scene. 'My sister and I started crying when we saw him,' Mendez said."
Her lawyer Jack Yanowitz said, "It’s unfathomable, what the police did. The whole thing sounds so stupid. They were interrogating him like he was a hardened criminal." But the police claim that they were following procedure. NYPD spokeswoman Kim Royster told the Daily News, "The attorney is fabricating the amount of time the child was in custody." She insists Wilson was only held for four hours and 40 minutes.
Other police sources tell the Post and Daily News that Wilson allegedly punched a child. The News reports:
The cop source close to the incident said the 7-year-old had been bullying the victim for some time, prompting the victim’s mom to call for a meeting with teachers and the suspect’s mom. “This kid is no angel, even though he may look like it,” the source said. “We made the arrest based on the complainant aggressively complaining about what the defendant did to him. This wasn’t something where one kid runs off with another kid’s basketball. This 7-year-old attacked someone and took his money. There’s a little more to this story than it appears."
Further, the source points out that children seven to 17 can be charged as juveniles. "Everything was done properly,” the unidentified cop told the News, adding that the boy was given pizza during his detention. “He was arrested for a robbery. He was taken to the precinct and put in the juvenile room. His parent was allowed to see him.” Another source argues that "If we didn’t handcuff him and he ran out the front door, then we would have had an escaped prisoner on our hands.”
We're all sleeping better at night for that! The NYPD has a history of handcuffing unassuming criminal types—like the 7-year-old special ed student, the 12-year-old who doodled on her desk, and the 15-year-old who used her student Metrocard.