Police have launched a review after a protester captured in a dramatic viral picture said cops fired weapons around him and his two-year-old son – and one officer allegedly threatened to spray tear gas at the little boy.
Dontae Parks, 29, attended a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd in Long Beach, California, with his toddler son, where he was captured in a shocking image facing off with a police officer brandishing a rubber bullet gun seemingly inches from their faces.
In an exclusive interview with the US Sun on Wednesday, Dontae told how one officer threatened to spray tear gas while others fired bullets right in front of them.
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And in video footage cops can be seen loading weapons and firing bullets all around them – while in another, fellow protesters can be heard begging cops not to gas the child, shouting: “What’s the matter with you? You are a monster! You are really going to gas this child? What about your child?”
Now Long Beach Police Department have responded to the claims – labelling them “disturbing” and pledging to launch a “review”.
In a statement a spokesperson said: “The Long Beach Police Department is aware of the image posted to social media of a crowd control police officer and a man with a child on his shoulders during Sunday’s civil unrest.
“We agree the image is disturbing and we all share the community’s concerns for the safety of the child, the peaceful demonstrators, and the officers.
“While the review of the incident is underway, we do know that this image was taken at the time that violent disrupters were throwing bottles and pyrotechnics that could cause great bodily injury to anyone in the area.
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“We are reviewing all of the related video footage to determine the facts of the situation. The item depicted in the image is a less than lethal launcher.”
They added: “LBPD will continue to protect and support individuals expressing their Constitutional rights, but will not tolerate violence against our community members or officers.”
Dontae earlier told how he found the police’s behaviour “uncalled for”.
“It did very much upset me,” he said. “It was a peaceful protest and, yes, there were looters down the street that were doing God who knows what.
“But at the same time, I feel it’s uncalled for – I don’t think they should be firing any type of weapons especially in a crowd where there is a peaceful protest and there’s a child near by.
“The officer in the photo – he should not be a cop at all.”
Dontae, who works as a welder, defended his decision to take the youngster to the protest – after he received criticism from some who said he put his son in danger.
“I saw a post about a peaceful protest so I decided to go over and I wanted my son to be there with me so he can see what’s really going on and appeal for justice for our people and all races,” he said.
“There was a lot of looting going on but not everyone was there to cause a ruckus, you have stupid people doing that but we were there to stand up for the people.
“I’m a great father and I take care of my son and I’m raising him to be great.
“A lot of people might think I put my son in danger by being there, but I know I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, and when it started to get really dangerous, we went home.”
Dontae also believes that he wouldn’t have had the same reactions from cops if he was white, saying: “Definitely … if me and my son were white I don’t think that cop would have threatened to spray the gas.
“It would have been a whole different scenario and that’s another reason I was there.
“I’m tired of the injustice that goes on in the world today with colour.
“I’m not one to say ‘It’s because I’m black these things happen’ but it happens repeatedly. It’s all over social media people of colour dying, it’s become normal, it’s like ‘Oh another day, another black person got killed, carry on’.”
Dontae said he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t want the picture or his experiences to spark any more violence – and there are other peaceful ways to bring about change.
“I’m a peaceful guy and I avoid confrontation,” he said.
“But we need change – I feel like they can’t just let anyone be a cop, I feel like a lawyer has to go to school and do a lot of years of education, I feel like it should be the same with cops.
“You can’t just give someone a gun and expect them to save the world, that’s not how it goes.”
Photographer Richard Grant earlier described the image as “the most impactful picture I have ever taken”.
Crowds of protesters standing against the killing of George Floyd have gathered in cities across the US over recent days.
George Floyd died on May 25 after getting arrested for allegedly trying to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
While in police custody, former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes — while Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and then died.