The New York Police Department are being sued for $250 million by a family who claim they handcuffed their seven-year-old son and treated him like a criminal after he was accused of stealing another pupil’s lunch money.
Wilson Reyes, who attends a public school in the Bronx, had been accused of stealing $5 from another pupil, reports ABC.
It was claimed he got into a fight with another pupil after being accused of taking the lunch money, which had fallen on the floor.
However, police, responding to a complaint of assault and robbery, took him to the local station where, according to the lawsuit, officers allegedly handcuffed him and interrogated him for ten hours.
The lawsuit also claims he was teased by officers, who allegedly threatened to ‘put him away with the big boys’.
The charges of robbery against the boy were later dropped and the NYPD are investigating the incident, although the dispute the allegations in the suit.
Wilson Reyes, though, has been left emotionally distraught after the incident, says his mother Frances Mendez, who took a photograph of the incident.
Speaking to the New York Post, she said: “My son was crying, ‘Mommy, it wasn’t me! Mommy, it wasn’t me!’ I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We’re traumatized.
“Imagine how I felt seeing my son in handcuffs. It was horrible. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.”
The claim also accuses the NYPD of false imprisonment, physical, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, and deprivation of Reyes' constitutional rights.
Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne told the ABC in a statement: “While the lawyer's claims are grossly untrue in many respects, including fabrication as to how long the child was held, the matter is nonetheless being reviewed by the department's Internal Affairs Bureau.”
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a statement: “Seven-year-olds don't belong in handcuffs.
“As a parent, I wouldn't stand for this in one of my kids' schools. Our school system's over-reliance on the NYPD as a disciplinary tool traumatizes our young people, sows distrust in our communities and drains vital city resources away from responding to genuine crimes. This has to stop.”
The lawsuit has been described as ‘grossly unfair’ by a police spokesman. They insist he was treated like any other suspect in a juvenile arrest and was even given pizza.