Pittsburgh police officers under fire for using stun gun on 12-year-old boy

Pittsburgh cops are coming under fire for using a stun gun on a 12-year-old boy.

June 26, 2018, 4:39 PM

A 12-year-old boy who allegedly punched a Pittsburgh police officer was shot with a stun gun and handcuffed, officials and his mother told ABC affiliate WTAE-TV.

The incident occurred in Pittsburgh on the same night that 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. was shot dead by a police officer in nearby East Pittsburgh, prompting angry protests in the area.

"This can't keep going on," the child's mother, Octavia James, told WTAE. "Like Antwon, 17 years old, shot in the back [for] running. A 12-year-old boy being tased, what's next?"

PHOTO: Octavia James of Pittsburgh talks to WTAE reporters about an incident where her 12-year-old son was tased by police on June 19, 2018.
Octavia James of Pittsburgh talks to WTAE reporters about an incident where her 12-year-old son was tased by police on June 19, 2018.

Chris Togneri, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department, confirmed in a statement to ABC News that police used a stun gun to subdue the boy but said officers were not initially aware that the child -- who is 6-foot-1, 157 pounds -- was 12 years old.

Togneri said plainclothes officers were patrolling the Hill District neighborhood on June 19 when they encountered an intoxicated Michael James Sr., and an angry confrontation ensued. He said when James's wife tried to intervene, he allegedly assaulted her.

Togneri said Michael James approached the officers and "grew increasingly angry at the officers' presence in the neighborhood.

As police attempted to arrest James, his "son emerged from a house and punched the arresting officer in the face. The officer deployed his Taser to subdue him. It was later determined that the boy is 12. At the time, the officer only knew that someone had struck him in the face while he was attempting to make an arrest on a male who had assaulted a female," according to Togneri.

Witness cellphone video of the incident shows the boy, identified by his mother as Michael James Jr., face first on the ground with no shirt or shoes on and a plainclothes officer holding him down and other police standing around him.

On the video, obtained by WTAE, witnesses can be heard yelling at the officers, "That's a little boy!" and "Y'all just do not care."

Octavia James said her son was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault of a police officer and taken to a juvenile detention center.

While she said her husband should not have yelled at police, officers "used way too much excessive force towards my son." She also disputed the accusation that her son punched an officer, citing witnesses who said the boy did not take a swing at the officer.

"When they had my son down on the ground, not only was he handcuffed, the one officer's hand was still on the trigger tasing my son," James told WTAE.

Togneri said the boy's father was arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats, simple assault, aggravated assault and public drunkenness.

He said the incident is "under review."