Norfolk

16-year-old Tariq was walking home from school in Norfolk, Virginia last week after getting permission from his school and his parents. He ended up getting brutalized by local police.

Tariq, who has epilepsy, walked by a restaurant when two officers in the restaurant’s parking lot saw him and decided to follow, according to family spokesman Michael Muhammad. When the officer on the passenger side of the car — whose name has not been identified as of this writing — asked Tariq if he would talk to them, Tariq responded that he had nothing to say.

That’s when, according to Muhammad, the encounter got violent.

“The passenger jumps out of the vehicle, grabs Tariq by his shoulder… and when he yanks Tariq, he spins him around, and Tariq yanks away from him, and says, ‘Hey bro, you grabbing me by my neck, what’s wrong with you?’ By that time, the driving officer maces Tariq in the face,” Muhammad told Grit Post. “Tariq then goes to reach into his pocket to pull out a tissue, because they had maced him. Then the officers begin to grab him and roughhouse him, and it’s at that point in the video when you see them lifting his arms above his back.”

“We’re calling it a classic case of walking while black, because there was no probable reason for those officers to stop Tariq,” he added. “When the officers initially stopped him, they said they were stopping him for truancy. Later on, they said there were several car break-ins in the area.”

Muhammad said that after paramedics arrived and washed the young boy’s eyes out, police didn’t take him to the police station or book him at a juvenile detention center. Instead, they took him to his mother’s home. The 16-year-old boy’s mother took him to the emergency room shortly after officers brought him home, where he was treated for a neck sprain and superficial injuries to his arms and legs.

This isn’t the first time the Norfolk Police Department has had a high-profile police brutality allegation tarnish their reputation. In May of 2016, local media reported that in the first five months of that year, Norfolk police — whose jurisdiction is just shy of 250,000 people — was tied for the third-highest amount of police killings of citizens in the nation, trailing Houston, Texas (pop. 2.3 million) and Los Angeles, California (pop. 4 million).

“In 2016, I dealt with two issues of police slamming young people to the ground and knocking their teeth out,” Muhammad said. “This is not a city that is short on problems with the police.”

Data on police shootings shows that Norfolk is by far Virginia’s worst offender in citizens killed by police. Between January 2013 and December 2017, Norfolk police killed citizens at a rate of nearly 12 per 100,000, making them #1 in the Commonwealth, according to the Mapping Police Violence database. Nationally, Norfolk ranks #39 in the U.S. in number of citizens killed by police in that four-year period. To put that in perspective, Norfolk is the 88th largest city in the U.S.

Jasmine Leeward, a spokeswoman for criminal justice reform group New Virginia Majority, grew up in the Norfolk area. She said the problem of police violence in black communities is systemic.

“You have a lot of gentrification going on, and a lot of concentrated poverty. Most of the police violence that goes on is not in the public eye,” Leeward told Grit Post. “The realities for one population of the city is very different than the reality of people who are more economically stable and whiter.”

Following the release of the video, the Norfolk Police Department released a statement saying that they were conducting an internal investigation, and that the two officers involved were still on duty. The statement did not rule out criminal charges for Tariq following that investigation.

“The Norfolk Police Department will thoroughly investigate this incident to determine if the officers followed department policies and procedures,” the department stated.

The Virginian-Pilot reported on October 12 that Tariq has been charged with a crime. However, that’s incorrect, according to Muhammad, who confirmed with the 16-year-old boy’s family that there were no charges filed as of Thursday evening.

 

Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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