Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register on Tuesday defended the actions of a Cobb officer who arrested a 12-year-old at Cumberland Mall earlier this month.
Corey Jackson, a rapper who performs under the name Lil C-Note, was allegedly selling CDs inside the mall the afternoon of Oct. 6 after being warned not to do so twice before, according to Register, who said an internal affairs investigation into the incident was launched Tuesday.
Jackson and his aunt were arrested following an altercation with a Cobb police officer who responded to the incident.
The encounter between the officer, who is white, and the child and his aunt, who are black, has drawn criticism on social media for the officer’s handling of the situation.
While the 12-year-old was being detained, his aunt “physically attacked the officer,” Register said, prompting him to release his grip on the child’s arm and take the woman to the ground.
Register said the woman could have de-escalated the situation instead of making things worse. He also said the officer was “gently” holding the 12-year-old’s arm and not using any of the more painful restraint holds commonly reserved for detaining combative adults.
“All he was doing was holding the young man by the arm,” Register said, adding witnesses at the mall reported seeing the child push at the officer and even swing at him in an attempt to get away.
The officer was not on duty at the time, but working a part-time security job at Cumberland Mall in his police uniform.
According to police, Jackson had been issued a criminal trespass warning the week before after he was caught selling CDs a second time.
“What that meant is if they caught the young man back on the premises of Cumberland Mall selling CDs, then they would request that the police make a criminal trespass case (against) the young man,” Register said. “The officer was simply trying to get information and make a determination if a crime was occurring. During that interaction, the juvenile continued to be verbally resistant.”
The names of the child’s aunt and the officer involved have not been released.
The woman has been charged with felony obstruction, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and giving a false name and date of birth to police, Register said. The 12-year-old, Jackson, was charged with felony obstruction, misdemeanor criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. He was released to the custody of his father and not taken to the youth detention center.
Register said the video of the incident posted to Twitter shows only “a short snippet” of what happened.
“A lot of people have said that he was manhandled,” Register said. “The officer — all he was doing was holding the young man by the arm … I believe from the preliminary investigation that the officer was in his legal rights to detain the juvenile.”
Register said his department is reviewing video footage captured on officers’ body cameras but would not say whether the arresting officer was wearing his at the time. Investigators are also reviewing security footage recorded on the mall’s cameras.
“The Cobb County Police Department has opened an internal affairs investigation into the incident,” Register told reporters gathered at police headquarters. “I think it’s fair to the officer, the young man, the other people that were involved, the aunt and also the community. We’ll gather the facts and when the facts are gathered, we’ll examine those facts and we will act accordingly.”
The officer involved has not been placed on leave. Register did not say how long he has been employed by the department.