BLACK VOICES

Deputies Pull Guns On 3 Black Teens Despite Witnesses Saying They Were The Victims

The L.A. County sheriff said he had "concerns about the tactics" after seeing video in which a witness says the teens were the ones threatened by a man with a knife.

Sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles County aimed a rifle and a handgun at three Black teenagers after a witness called in to report that the teens were being threatened by a man with a knife.

The terrifying encounter Friday between deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station, north of Los Angeles, and the teens was captured on a cellphone video that was posted on social media Saturday.

A woman in the video repeatedly tells the teens to keep their hands up, apparently frightened that they risked being shot if they didn’t. Others can be heard yelling at police that the teenagers “didn’t do anything” and “this is crazy.” One woman, who identified herself as a manager of a restaurant near the scene, says: “I’m the one that called you. It was not them.” 

The teens were made to kneel at gunpoint, then were handcuffed and detained. They were questioned and soon released, the Los Angeles Country Sheriff’s Department told HuffPost.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva issued a video statement Monday afternoon saying he had “concerns about the tactics employed” after he watched the footage of the confrontation and had launched an investigation. He said the department had received a call about a “felony assault, and the deputies detained those allegedly to be involved.” He provided no other details about the reported assault.

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth issued a statement asking that the “deputy be removed from the field pending the outcome” of the probe. He reportedly was referring to the main deputy on the scene who pointed a rifle at the teens.

Deputies were called to the scene when witnesses reported that the three teens were being threatened by a homeless man with a knife as they waited at a bus stop, the mother of one of the teens, Tammi Collins, told Los Angeles CBS affiliate Channel 2.

Collins posted a video of the confrontation on Instagram. “This is something my son and his friends will never forget,” she said.

A deputy told The Santa Clarita Valley Signal newspaper that one witness called to report an assault with a skateboard. The sheriff’s office later said that no victim was found and no crime committed, The Signal reported.

“I think anyone who saw the video would find it concerning, and it’s appropriate for the city to ask for an immediate investigation and to ask for a deputy to be removed from the field while the investigation occurs,” Smyth said.