Murfreesboro police still have not said why as many as 10 children were arrested at Hobgood Elementary School on Friday, citing state law that prohibits the release of juvenile records. Parents say they have been told the charges came because the students did not intervene in a fight that happened off campus.
The alleged fight was caught on video. And one of the parents says a Murfreesboro police officer came to his neighborhood the night before the arrests. Zacchaeus Crawford says a female officer told parents that the police were trying to find a boy who was being assaulted in the video.
“She wanted to make sure he was safe," Crawford says. "My wife and all the other parents were trying to help her. All the names that were mentioned while we were trying to help, all those kids ended up getting arrested the next day.”
Three of Crawford’s children, aged 9 to 11, were charged with "criminal responsibility of conduct of another," he says. At least one was handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car, he says. They were ordered to appear in court June 28.
Crawford says he is hesitant to bring up race but believes it was a factor.
“[It’s] obvious to everybody, this has racial background and tensions in it, period," he says. "It was injustice to these kids. It was injustice to the families. There’s a lot of things that just civilly, there is something that needs to happen.”
State Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville issued a statement requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the arrests, calling the police action “inexcusable.”
Murfreesboro Police Chief Karl Durr announced an internal review which will involve input from pastors in the community.
“Situations involving juvenile offenders and victims are some of the most difficult and sensitive situations that officers must handle," Durr said in a statement. "We will reinforce the practices that have worked well and correct any deficiencies or problems that become known.”
At a community gathering held Sunday at Murfreesboro’s First Baptist Church, one of the police officers involved in the incident expressed regret. According to WKRN, Officer Christopher Williams apologized to the families, saying the arrests moved him to tears.
Zacchaeus Crawford says he just wants "the system to work" and for "the resolution to be peaceful."
"I want my children to not have to deal with this for the long haul," he says. "I don't want my child, who wants to grow up and go to college, I don't want any of them to have to explain this to anybody. They're innocent, so they shouldn't have to."