Police pepper-spray black teenager in his white foster parents’ home

Police pepper-spray black teenager in his white foster parents’ home
Police pepper-sprayed a teenager in his foster home in a Raleigh, North Carolina suburb, after a neighbor mistook him as an intruder. Race may have played a part in the incident, as the high schooler is black and his foster parents and siblings are white.

DeShawn Currie returned to his Fuquay-Varina foster home after school on Monday, where he has been living for about a year. His foster mother, Stacy Tyler, had left the side door unlocked for him. He went up to his room.

But a neighbor saw the 18-year-old walk into the home and called 911 to report a break-in, according to WTVD. Three police officers arrived at the home, found the side door ajar and walked in, guns drawn, the Associated Press reported.

Barefoot and dressed in a tank-top and shorts, Currie came downstairs and met them in the dining room.

"They was like, 'Put your hands on the door’,” the teenager told WTVD. "I was like, 'For what? This is my house.' I was like, 'Why are y'all in here?'"

The responding police told him to shut up, he told AP.

"I did everything that they asked," said Currie, who is about 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds. "I was calm and being compliant with them until something happened."

DeShawn Currie (from his Facebook profile)

That something was apparently an officer noticing family photographs around the home. The pictures showed three white children. Currie is African-American.

"Where's your picture if you say you live here?" Stacy Tyler, who made Currie her foster child last December, recounted one of the officers as asking. "He (Currie) snapped. And that's when he got loud and yelling."

It was during the argument that officers pepper-sprayed the teenager, saying he became physical towards them.

"Mr. Currie became very volatile, profane and threatened physical violence toward the police officer," police said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "In an effort to calm Mr. Currie, the police officer asked him several times to have a seat, which he refused. Mr. Currie became increasingly belligerent and profane and the police officer attempted to restrain Mr. Currie with handcuffs to insure the police officer's and Mr. Currie's safety. Mr. Currie then struck the police officer's left arm knocking the handcuffs to the floor."

Stacy arrived home after picking up her other three children from school, running errands and buying them ice cream to see her foster son handcuffed in an ambulance, crying. EMTs were dousing his eyes and face with water to flush out the pepper. She explained to the officers that Currie does, indeed, live in the home.

"My 5-year-old last night, she looked at me and said, 'Mama I don't understand why they hated our brother, and they had to come in and hurt him’," she told the local ABC affiliate.

Currie said he chose this family with a hope of security and love, but now he's not sure if he'll ever be able to move on.

"I'm feeling comfortable," he explained. "I had moved into my room, and I'm feeling like I'm loved. And then when they come in and they just profile me and say that I'm not who I am. And that I do not stay here because there was white kids on the wall, that really made me mad."

His foster parents expressed the same concern. "Everything that we've worked so hard for in the past years was stripped away yesterday in just a matter of moments," said Rickey Tyler.

"That was the part that broke my heart, knowing all the work that my husband and I have put into rebuilding his life and giving him a good and normal teenage life," Stacy told AP. "You don't get in foster care and not have scars, and he's been in foster care a very long time."

The 29-year-old, stay-at-home mom met Currie during the 18 months she and her husband Rickey lived and worked at a children's home. She said she and her husband, a 30-year-old construction foreman, decided simultaneously to bring Currie into their home last year.

Police told WTVD that the Tylers’ neighborhood has recently experienced criminal activity. Stacy told AP that a bicycle was stolen out of her home's back yard a couple of weeks ago.

The neighbor who called the police apologized Tuesday for prompting the incident, she said.

Currie said his eyes still sting and his heart still hurts.

"I'm getting over it and whatever slowly," he said. "But there's still that big emotional part."

The Tylers and Currie met with Fuquay-Varina Police Department Captain Bob Adams for several hours Tuesday afternoon, but no charges have been filed.