WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today released the below statement regarding an incident that took place on Saturday, March 30, on H Street NE in which police officers handcuffed a 10-year-old child:
“This past Saturday, March 30, a boy was robbed at gunpoint in a violent and traumatic incident. He, like all victims of crime, deserves justice. This means holding the offenders accountable, giving the victim and his family a voice, and doing what is necessary to ensure that the community is safe. In the District of Columbia, this is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General because we prosecute juvenile crime in our city.
Along with the Metropolitan Police Department, we continue to investigate and seek justice for the victim. In pursuing this case, police officers stopped, handcuffed and detained a 10-year-old boy. In doing so the police acted in accordance with MPD policies and procedures. However, my office has reviewed multiple surveillance videos that captured the crime and we are now certain that there is no evidence that the 10-year-old boy played a role in the armed robbery. He is totally innocent. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General will not be bringing any charges against the 10-year-old boy.
Typically, we do not publicly comment on any of our juvenile cases because District laws protect the confidentiality of all juveniles involved in the justice system. With very few exceptions, all law enforcement records related to a child, and all the information they contain, are confidential under the law. Indeed, I needed to seek a court order to make this statement. But this is necessary because in the court of public opinion this innocent 10-year-old was deemed guilty and criminalized. Public statements were made about his alleged involvement in an armed robbery which he did not commit. Pictures and video of him being led to a police car in handcuffs were widely circulated.
We owe it to the young victim of this crime to hold the people who hurt him accountable. We also owe it to the 10-year-old who was incorrectly identified as an armed robber to set the record straight. I am speaking to you today to publicly exonerate this young person and to stress the importance of the laws which protect the confidentiality of all of the young people involved in our justice system—both victims and offenders.
We protect the confidentiality of children in the justice system because children are fundamentally different from adults. We know that they are not yet mature. They can—and unfortunately sometimes do—commit crimes, and even hurt others. But the intertwined goals of our juvenile justice system are protecting public safety and rehabilitating youth.
By protecting the confidentiality of young people accused and found guilty of crimes, we ensure they have the best possible chance at rehabilitation. When young people are rehabilitated, reintegrated into their communities, and not followed by stigma, they are much less likely to reoffend and can go on to live successful lives.
We continue to investigate this very serious crime and will hold the perpetrators accountable. We will do so while upholding the confidentiality protections in District law, because these protections ultimately make our community safer.
I have a final request to you, the members of the press. I know you are already mindful of the need to protect children’s privacy. I urge you to please respect the privacy of this innocent 10-year-old. We, along with his family, ask that you not replay or further circulate the videos of him in police custody. As we have seen over the past few days, there are real, tangible consequences when confidentiality is breached. I implore you to think carefully about protecting the privacy of all of our children moving forward.”