Teen's tragic Covid death after falling ill on her 14th birthday

A teenage girl who made national headlines after she was at the centre of a police controversy has died from complications of Covid-19 at the age of 14.

Honestie Hodges, from the US state of Michigan, was part of a national media storm after she was handcuffed at gunpoint at home when she was 11.

She and her mother were both handcuffed by police as they investigating a suspected stabbing, with a suspect thought to be at the home.

Body camera footage published by the Detroit Free Press at the time of the incident showed young Honestie crying as she pleaded with officers not to detain her.

This week her grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer, said in an updated post to a GoFundMe page the 14-year-old had died after a battle with Covid-19.

Honestie Hodges with a tube coming out of her mouth in a hospital bed. She has died of coronavirus, her family said.
The teen passed away earlier this week, her family said. Source: GoFundMe

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all of you that my beautiful, sassy, smart loving Granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus,” she wrote.

According to the page, she was taken to hospital on the day of her birthday on November 9. She was later placed on a ventilator on November 15 “to give her body time to rest”, her grandma wrote.

The fundraiser, which at the time of writing had raised more than US$48,000 (AU$65,000), was started to help Honestie’s family cover the costs of treatment.

“Honestie has liquid that is collecting in her stomach and they have no idea where it’s coming from since she is not taking any food or drink by mouth. Because of this she may have to have surgery. I’m asking for donations to help my daughter get through this,” the page said.

On Monday (local time), the girl’s grandmother said the family was in shock from the death.

“It just went down from there, like incredibly quickly,” she told a local TV station.

“There was no way we thought this was ever going to happen. You know [we thought], ‘She is going to get better; she is going to come home and we are going to have a birthday party.’”

A vigil held by the family pictured in a photo posted on the Honestie Hodges GoFundMe page.
A photo of a vigil held by the family was posted on the GoFundMe page. Source: GoFundMe

Arrest incident sparked ‘Honestie policy’

In 2017, local police Chief David Rahinsky told the Associated Press the body cam footage left him feeling “nauseated”, but the officers followed procedure.

In the video, one officer yells at the girl before a second grabs her arms and handcuffs her.

“Put your hands on top of your...,” the officer ordered before he was interrupted by Honestie’s mother screaming: “She is 11 years old, sir!”

Officers involved in her controversial arrest were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

“What that doesn’t mean is that we don’t recognise that there is a need for us to look at what occurred and identify opportunities here to ensure different outcomes in the future,” Chief Rahinsky said.

Despite similar incidences happening at the hand of the same police department in the following years, at the time officers were said to be getting new training and better supervision as part of a multi-step plan that included an “Honestie policy” for how officers should interact with children.

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