When three teens were allegedly threatened by an armed man, the responding officers turned their guns on them, mother says

Three teenagers in Santa Clarita, California, were held at gunpoint and detained by police responding to calls about an attack.

Posted: Aug 13, 2020 7:31 PM
Updated: Aug 13, 2020 7:31 PM

Bystanders called police when three teens -- two of them Black -- were allegedly attacked by a knife-wielding man as they sat at a bus station in California's Santa Clarita Valley, according to the mother of one of the teens.

But video shows when the deputies arrived, they pointed guns at the teens and detained them instead.

Tammi Collins shared the video of Friday's incident on Instagram. In the caption, she says her son was with his friends sitting at a bus stop, waiting to head home.

Collins' son and one of his friends are Black, both of them age 16. The other teen, 18 years old, is White, according to Collins' lawyer, Robert Brown.

They were approached by a homeless man who asked them if they had any cocaine and then tried to take their belongings, Collins said her son told her.

The man soon became aggressive and allegedly pulled out a knife on them, Collins said, recounting what her son said. Two of the teens held out their skateboards to protect themselves, she added.

Seeing this, several bystanders apparently called police.

Collins' video, which she said was recorded and given to her by another woman who witnessed the scene, has since garnered over 270,000 views.

It does not show anyone attacking the teens, but begins as at least three patrol units with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department arrive at the scene. Two deputies can be seen pointing their guns at the teens and another officer joins them with a rifle.

According to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, "there were two calls that came in, almost at the same time."

"One that described the kids as the aggressors. The other one described the homeless person as the aggressor," he said in a news conference on Wednesday.

"It was the other guy!" one bystander can be heard on the video yelling at the deputies as they direct the teens to walk backwards toward them with their hands in the air. Each of the teens obeys the commands and is eventually handcuffed and detained.

"They don't care because they're Black!" another person says.

"I called you guys to tell you there's a crazy man chasing these kids," another bystander can be heard saying. "And you guys do this?"

After a deputy asks one of the bystanders to explain what she saw, she says she called police telling the dispatcher that there was a Hispanic man chasing the teens with a knife.

On the video, the deputy says, "I'm pretty sure somebody's with him right now too. Everyone gets detained."

Another deputy also responds, saying, "This seems like a different call. We're on another call for service where someone was hit with a skateboard. These three gentlemen were described in the call."

Brown, the lawyer, told CNN that the three teens were held in the squad car for about half an hour. After deputies questioned the teens and witnesses, they were released with no charges, he said. L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Trina Schrader also confirmed the teens were released.

Brown said he believes the man who was allegedly attacking the teens ran off when he heard the police sirens. The homeless man has still not been located, Villanueva said in the news conference.

Regardless of whether this was a misunderstanding, Collins said in her Instagram post that this "traumatic experience" would be something that her son and his friends "will never forget."

"The response was overboard and too aggressive," Derrick Gray, the father of one of the other teens told CNN affiliate KTLA.

When asked for comment, Gray directed CNN to Brown, saying that he represented all three teens.

"This was a very innocuous situation that was escalated by the deputies," Brown said.

"If those young men had not maintained their poise. Let's say they walked towards the officers to try to explain what had happened to them or if they reached for a cellphone to call their parents, they could have potentially been shot or seriously injured or killed," he added.

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said he was aware of Friday's incident and was "very concerned."

"We have spoken to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and we are aware that a full investigation is underway regarding the level of response by the deputies. We have asked that the review be expedited, and any necessary actions be taken," Smyth said in a statement.

Villanueva said in Wednesday's news conference that he has "concerns about the tactics" and the "deployment of the AR-15 rifle," noting that the deputy that held up the AR-15 has been removed from the field, pending the outcome of the investigation.

"Right now we're doing two things," he said. "We're doing an investigation on the incident itself... And we're also reviewing the policy on the deployment of the AR-15 to make sure it's realistic and something that is supported by the actions on the ground that justify using that type of a weapon."

Brown said he has concerns about whether race was an issue in the deputies' handling of the incident, and he hopes the investigation will reveal more details.

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