Eighteen-year-old DeShawn Currie was walking into his foster parents’ unlocked side door after school Monday afternoon, when a neighbor called 911 to report what they perceived to be a burglary on the residential block in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. When cops arrived, they walked inside the house and ordered Currie to put his hands up, as Currie, confused, questioned what he had done wrong. Cops responded by pointing to a picture on the wall that showed several white children together, implying that Currie, black, did not belong.
By the time Currie’s foster mother Stacy Tyler came home, EMTs were treating Currie in the driveway for having been pepper sprayed in the face by the officers, WTVD reports. Police said in a statement they pepper-sprayed Currie because he would not follow orders.
Stacy and Ricky Tyler had been fostering Currie for about a year, and have done all they can to show Currie that he is just as much a member of their family as the other three children.
“Everything that we’ve worked so hard for in the past years was stripped away yesterday in just a matter of moments,” Ricky Tyler told WTVD. Currie said he wasn’t sure if he would be able to move past the incident.
Violent police mistakes often result from calls to 911 that are seemingly not subject to independent scrutiny by police, reinforcing the role of biased misperceptions of fear. Last month, police shot and killed John Crawford III after a 911 caller said Crawford was pointing a gun at customers in Wal-Mart. The witness later admitted that Crawford never pointed the “gun,” which turned out to be an unloaded BB gun stocked on Wal-Mart shelves.