BALTIMORE – Baltimore police arrested a 7-year-old boy, handcuffed him, then hauled him off to the station house where they took his mug shot and fingerprints.
The youngster's offense?
He allegedly rode a dirt bike on a sidewalk.
"They scared me," Gerard Mungo Jr. told The Baltimore Examiner before breaking down in tears.
The incident brought new heat on a department already under fire for making what critics call frivolous or unnecessary arrests.
Police commissioner Leonard Hamm, although noting the city's ongoing concern about the nuisance of dirt bikes, said in a statement Thursday that the arrest of the 7-year-old "was not consistent with my philosphy of trying to solve problems in the neighborhoods."
Mayor Sheila Dixon said she intended to look into the facts behind Gerard's arrest. "As a mother and as a parent, I am bothered by it," she said. "I will get to the bottom of this."
Dinkins, who turned 7 last month, was sitting on the bike with the motor off on a sidewalk near his home in east Baltimore when an officer grabbed him by the collar and pulled him off the bike, according to his mother Kikisa Dinkins, who witnessed the arrest.
"I told them to let go of my baby," Dinkins recalled. "Since when do you pull a 7-year-old child by his neck and drag him?"
Dinkins said she called for a police supervisor to intervene, but the confrontation continued to escalate after the supervisor arrived on the scene.
"They started yelling at him, 'Do you know what you did wrong, son?"' Dinkins said. "He was so scared he ran upstairs."
Police confiscated the dirt bike and placed her son under arrest.
At the station, young Gerard was handcuffed to a bench and interrogated, before he was released to the custody of his parents.
Police spokesman Matt Jablow said an officer saw Gerard riding his dirt bike on the sidewalk.
The zero-tolerance arrest policy of former Mayor Martin O'Malley, now Maryland's governor, has become a contentious issue in Baltimore, with State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, some judges and civil rights activists complaining such arrests occur most often in poor, black neighborhoods.
Dixon, who planned to address the arrest at a press conference Friday, took office in January promising to put aside "simplistic" approaches to crime.
Dinkins said the incident has scarred her son. "This has changed his life," she said. "He'll never be the same."