The mother of an eight-year-old special needs boy whose arrest at a Key West school caused outrage announced Tuesday that she was planning to sue.
Bianca Digennaro, 48, has taken legal action after her son was arrested at school in December 2018.
The harrowing footage of the arrest went viral Monday after it was released online by Benjamin Crump, the Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney who represents the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Digennaro is suing the city and school district; the three officers who arrested their son – Michael Malgrat, Kenneth Waite, and Fred Sims; her son's teacher, Ashley Henriquez; Director Fran Herin and Assistant Director Kyle Sheer.
Bianca Digennaro, 48, announced during a Zoom press conference that she would file a civil lawsuit
Her attorney Benjamin Crump said the case was against officials, school, city and teachers
The allegations in the lawsuit include that the named parties violated the boy's civil rights through excessive use of force, failed to intervene in his arrest, and failed to take into account his disabilities during the incident.
Digennaro said her son also has anxiety and depression, for which he is taking two types of medication.
"My son has a disability and the authorities tried to turn him into a criminal," she said.
"I'm here for my son because I refuse to have him turned into a convicted criminal at the age of 8 just because he had a nervous breakdown."
She said her son's teachers and the rest of the school staff are aware of his special needs.
"Everyone knew that," said Digennaro at the press conference on Tuesday.
Body camera footage from the December 14, 2018 incident shows two officers in front of the seated child at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West, Florida.
The boy had punched a teacher in the chest and was arrested for a criminal battery charge, according to the detention report.
The document states that the boy's teacher said the child was not sitting properly in his cafeteria bench.
Teacher asked him several times to sit down, but he did not give in, and she asked him to sit next to her.
He refused and said to her: "Don't put your hands on me."
She then told the boy to go with her and he told her, "My mom is going to hit your a **."
Then he hit her with his right hand.
A harrowing video surfaced Monday after the 2018 incident at a school in Key West, Florida
The officers told the child that he was going to jail and tried to handcuff him or her
Sources close to the investigation told The Miami Herald that the boy's father, who is not married to Digennaro, went to school that day and asked officials to scare his son in order to improve his behavior.
When asked by two reporters after Tuesday, Crump said he did not know and that it was irrelevant in either case.
"Police officers are not empowered to arrest on the orders of lay people," he said.
Crump said the footage was deeply troubling and the child was traumatized.
An officer behind the camera says, “You are going to jail. So you have to get up and put your hands behind your back. & # 39;
An officer eats the child while their hands are placed on a closet and then handcuffed, but they are too big and will not fit.
The little boy looks down and follows the officers, whimpering and crying when asked to leave school.
The officer said to the crying child, "You understand this is very serious, okay?"
The boy was taken from school to a patrol car and sent to a juvenile detention center
A teacher can be seen coming to the boy and comforting him before he leaves school.
“You understand this is very serious, okay, and I hate that you put me in that position and that I have to do that. The thing is, you made a mistake and you have to learn from it and grow from it and not have to repeat the same mistake again, ”one officer tells the boy sternly while nodding.
The clip ends with officers escorting the child to a police car.
The boy was then sent to a juvenile detention center in Key West.
Digennaro said her son's mouth was wiped, his DNA and mug shot were taken, he was fingerprinted and then locked in a cell for a few minutes.
She said Tuesday that she is having a hard time watching the video.
"I can tell and I can feel how scared my son was," she said.
Crump said the boy was mentally drawn from the incident.
"He vividly remembers how they slammed the big doors shut with the bars," he said.
“That is the perspective of an eight year old child.
"A psychological crisis in a school and they think it appropriate to arrest him, prosecute him and make him a convicted criminal at the age of eight."
The incident took place at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West, Florida
Former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro said the incident was "incredible".
Officer Michael Malgrat wrote in the report that he was in the school's administration office when the teacher and boy arrived.
He said the boy had his hands clenched into fists and was positioned as if he was ready to fight.
Key West police chief Sean T. Brandenburg said in a statement Monday that his officers had done nothing wrong.
"Standard operating procedures were followed based on the report," he said.
The charges were dismissed almost a year later, in October 2019.
The video was picked up as yet another example of police brutality.
Julian Castro, ex-candidate for the Democratic President nomination and former mayor of San Antonio, shared the video on Monday, describing the incident as "unbelievable".
"Key West police tried to handcuff an 8-year-old boy and send him to jail to 'scare him outright," Castro tweeted.
"The police shouldn't play a role in punishing our children or doing traumatic stunts like this one in our schools."