Allegations that police officers in St. Louis, Missouri, held a child at gunpoint have been refuted by dashboard camera footage that was made public on March 2 (video below).
The allegations spurred protests, but Police Chief Sam Dotson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the video proves the claims were outright false. "This is a completely different interaction than what was described in the paper," Dotson said. "There was no hostility on the part of the officers or the occupants inside the car.”
"It was very conversational and very professional,” he added.
During the interaction between police and the occupants of the vehicle -- two adults and two children -- no guns were ever drawn. The car was stopped because the license plate didn’t match the car's registration, but the group was released without a ticket.
The claim may have started with Facebook user Melissa Bennett, who posted on Feb. 28 that her family was terrorized. Bennett wrote:
Tonight, the police pulled guns while my 2 year old nephew and 5 month old niece [were] in the car. The 2 year old reached for his Mother (my niece). The police yelled at him, told him to get back, and told him not to move. The guns were pulled out the entire time My family was harassed and followed..... Modern day terrorism. One of the passengers looked at the police. Soon they were pulled over. They were getting out of church. When we met soon after, the young adults were afraid to drive home.... Terrified. Tonight it hit my family.
The claims went viral and 75 people protested in front of police headquarters on Feb. 29, chanting “Black babies matter” and placing baby dolls on the street.
Dotson warned that it was easy for rumors to develop on social media. "This shows the vulnerability society has to social media, when an individual who may or may not be involved in an encounter casts a narrative that can't be vetted and there's no accountability. This story is out there and it's been retweeted thousands of times, when factually we investigate it, there is no substance to the allegations at all,” he said. Dotson is also pushing for more body cameras to improve accountability, KTVI reported.
"The people who were actually involved know the truth," he said. "Nobody made a complaint, because there was nothing to complain about.”
The family in the vehicle met with the police and they denied making any claims about their interaction with police.