D.C. police are investigating whether patrol officers struck an 11-year-old bicyclist with their cruiser Thursday night in Northwest Washington’s Park View neighborhood and drove away without reporting the incident.
“We are aware of the allegations, and we are looking into whether procedures were followed,” said Dustin Sternbeck, the department’s chief spokesman. He said the officers involved have been identified.
Police said they are sorting through conflicting accounts of what occurred but would not elaborate. No witnesses interviewed by The Washington Post saw the cruiser strike the bicycle, but one said she saw the officers leave the scene. It could not be determined whether the officers, who are from the 4th Police District, had turned on their body cameras, but police said that is part of an internal affairs investigation.
The incident happened about 8:45 p.m. in an alley between Otis Place and Newton Place NW, near Bruce-Monroe Elementary School and just off Georgia Avenue.
Portreona M. Brown, the boy’s mother, said her son told her he had been riding the Roadmaster Granite Peak bicycle he got for Christmas and had fireworks sticking out of the back pocket of his shorts when he encountered police.
Brown, 30, said her son told her that the officers apparently saw the fireworks and pursued him down the alley. She said her son told her the cruiser struck the back of his bicycle. By his account, she said, one officer got out of the car and checked the fireworks, gave them back to him and the cruiser drove off.
“They shouldn’t have just left him there,” Brown said, adding that detectives told her the investigation could take about two weeks. She said her son, who still has a limp from the incident, went off to summer camp Friday.
Some types of fireworks are legal in the District; the boy’s mother said she did not know precisely what her son had but noted that the officers did not confiscate it.
Three people who live near where the child fell said they heard a thud. Patricia Shepperson said she went outside, ran into the alley and saw a boy on the ground next to a purple bicycle with a bent rear wheel.
“I saw police get back in their car and they zoomed off,” Shepperson said. “Why would you leave? Who does that?”
Abbey Hunter, whose porch faces the alley entrance, said she also heard the thud and then “heard a scream.” She said she looked out a window and saw a child on the ground with two officers standing over him. Her husband, Ben, went outside and said, “The police were gone and the kid was still there.”
Surveillance video captured from the Hunters’ porch shows a group of youths and a woman standing at an alley entrance. “Look at that,” the woman is heard saying on the video. “Oh, hell no. . . . The police just hit him.” No officers or police cars can be seen in the wide-angle image.
The Hunters said they called police and spoke to investigators, as well as to the boy, who had two bruises on his lower right leg. He was treated by an ambulance crew but did not go to a hospital. His mother came and took him home to Columbia Heights.
Abbey Hunter, the special-events coordinator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said she was sitting on her sofa when she heard an impact. When she saw the officers with the boy, she said, “I thought instinctually, ‘The police are here; everything is fine.’ ”
On going outside with her husband, she said, she saw the bicycle. “The wheels were completely bent,” she said. “The boy was eleven years old and crying. It was so sad. He was completely shocked. . . . He tried to move [the bike] and couldn’t even drag it around.” She ran back into her house to get peroxide to treat the bruises, which she said took three bandages to cover.
Ben Hunter, an attorney with the Federal Education Association, a union for teachers in the Department of Defense school system, said one of the boy’s friends told him, “The police hit him, the police hit him.” He said the 11-year-old told him, “The cop hit me.”
On Friday, Ben Hunter said that internal affairs detectives visited the alley and that he walked them through what he saw. Whatever happened, he said, “I don’t understand how anyone would think the boy was okay to leave alone.”
Annaliese Nurnberg and Calla Kessler contributed to this report.