Driving home from church is dangerous in Wauwatosa, Wisc., if you’re a Black teen in a car with your grandmother who happens to be white, and police think you’re robbing her.
Akil Carter, age 18, sat in the backseat of a vehicle, while his grandmother and another white woman were in the front seat driving from Milwaukee on Sunday morning. Police stopped them when they entered Wauwatosa, a city with a population that’s 87.5 percent white, and only 4.8 percent Black.
It’s located in Milwaukee County where racial disparities in the criminal justice system have resulted in more than half of Black men in their thirties
serving time in prison. Wauwatosa is also less than 15 minutes from Milwaukee, which has an established school-to-prison pipeline for Black students.
Carter was handcuffed and detained as police claimed they were responding to a tip from a Black couple that a Black young man was robbing two older white women in a blue Lexus.
Wauwatosa Police Department released dashboard cam video, on Thursday, of the traffic stop.
An officer can be heard yelling: “Everybody put up their hands in the car. Put your hands up. Hands up in the car.”
He did not yet approach the car, and gave commands from his vehicle.
“Person in the backseat, I need you to step out of the car with your hands up.”
Carter opens the car door and steps out onto the sidewalk with his hands up.
The officer then ordered him to walk backwards toward his vehicle then to get down on his knees.
Click here for entire footage from dashcam
Out of camera range, an officer handcuffed Carter, and then placed him in the back of a squad car.
After his partner handcuffed Carter, an officer, identified by
The Washington Post as Pat Kaine, walked up to the stopped vehicle, and asked the passenger, “Is everything OK”
“This is my grandson; Yes, we’re on the way home from church to my house,” the woman, identified as Paulette Barr, replied.
“Some guy comes up to me in his car and says, actually, there were two Black guys robbing a lady in a blue Lexus,” Kaine said.
Barr repeated that the young man is her grandson, and the other woman is her best friend whom he’s known since he was a baby.
An additional video from a camera in the back-seat area shows a female officer telling Carter that the stop appears to be a misunderstanding. She tells him this, but keeps him in handcuffs as she questions him.
Carter told the officer his grandmother was the passenger and her friend was driving the car. He was released within 10 minutes of Barr clearing up the situation.
Capt. Brian E. Zalewski, Wauwatosa Police Department’s public information officer,
said in a statement to news media that during the stop officers drew their handguns, “but kept them pointed in a safe direction.”
Zalewski said Barr and Carter were stopped because an officer was “flagged down by an African American male and African American female who indicated a robbery either was occurring or had just occurred.” The suspects, he said, were “two Black males in the back seat.”
However, the Black people that allegedly flagged down Kaine has yet to be located for a formal statement.
The family has hired an attorney and may sue the Wauwatosa Police Department.