Key West police officers did not violate an 8-year-old boy’s civil rights when they tried to handcuff him at his elementary school after he was accused of punching a teacher in 2018, a federal judge has ruled.
The boy’s mother, Bianca Digennaro, sued the Key West police officers and the city in August 2020 after her attorney, Benjamin Crump, posted a video of the boy’s arrest on his Twitter account. The lawsuit accused officers of using excessive force, not intervening in his arrest and not considering his disabilities during the incident.
“A mental health crisis at a school, and they feel it is appropriate to arrest, charge and have him become a convicted felon at eight years old,” Crump said after the lawsuit was filed last year.
But U.S. District Court Chief Judge K. Michael Moore sided with police officers Michael Malgrat, Kenneth Waite and Fred Sims along with the city.
Moore cited the video, which shows the boy crying while an officer places him against a filing cabinet inside the school office. An officer frisks him and tries to put metal handcuffs on his wrists.
“The court cannot overlook the fact that — as depicted in the arrest video— Waite merely attempted to handcuff [the boy] for less than thirty seconds, causing no physical pain or injury,” Moore wrote in an 18-page order filed Monday.
“Waite then abandoned the effort and escorted [the boy] unrestrained,” Moore wrote. The officers explained to [him] why they were arresting him, speaking to him calmly and explaining the severity of his actions.”
Moore wrote that while the boy was visibly upset during the arrest, “the attempted handcuffing can hardly stand to serve as the sole or primary basis for any emotional injury he suffered as a result of the events that transpired that day.”
Even painful handcuffing does not, by itself, amount to excessive force, Moore wrote.
Moore ordered the clerk of court to close the case.
Crump, of Tallahassee, and Devon M. Jacob, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, did not immediately return messages for comment on whether they will appeal the decision.