Mother of toddler in ‘thug’ video says her son is smart, does not curse
(CNN) — The mother of an Omaha toddler is defending her son after he unleashed a slew of obscenities in an online video that has gone viral.
In the video, the diapered boy is taunted and cursed at by adults, who coax him into using crude words.
The African-American toddler knocks down a chair and responds to some of the comments with a middle-finger salute.
“Shut up, bitch,” he says in one of the responses.
The adults chuckle, prompting him to unleash more obscenities at them.
Despite the video, he’s not an anomaly, according to his mother.
“He had a clean diaper, the house was clean and like they said, kids curse, every kid does it,” the mother told CNN affiliate KETV in an exclusive interview. CNN does not identify juveniles in such stories. The mother is 16.
“He’s a smart little boy. All that cussing that he did, he doesn’t do that,” she said. “Somebody told him to do that. My son doesn’t do that. I don’t allow it.”
She said a friend of her brother filmed the video while she was in another room.
“He was wrong for doing that … posting the video up and getting us into this situation,” she said. “Everybody that thinks I’m a bad mother, I’m not. I’m a good mother to my son. I teach him a lot. He’s very smart.”
The police union in Omaha, Nebraska, posted the clip on its website to highlight what it called the “cycle of violence and thuggery” the community faces.
The Omaha Police Officers’ Association is under fire from the city’s police chief, the ACLU and at least one community leader. They say the move needlessly antagonizes minority communities, which make up about a quarter of Omaha’s 409,000 residents.
Sgt. John Wells, the union’s president, said the video was “disturbing” and “offensive.”
“The focus here isn’t on any particular ethnic group. The focus here is on the troubling behavior toward this child,” Wells said. “This behavior is going to potentially lead this child down a path that is completely unhealthy.”
On the website where the video is posted, the union said the clip came from “a local thug’s public Facebook page.”
“We here at OmahaPOA.com viewed the video and we knew that despite the fact that it is sickening, heartbreaking footage, we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in,” the police union wrote in a post accompanying the video.
“Now while we didn’t see anything in this video that is blatantly ‘illegal,’ we sure did see a lot that is flat out immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child from a healthy upbringing standpoint,” it added.
Wells said one of the adults mentions a local street gang in the video.
“That is why when we talk about the culture, the criminal culture, that this is to try to break the cycle and deal with the culture of violence and the culture of gang activity,” he said.
Willie Hamilton, president of the community activist group Black Men United, said the union crossed a line.
“For them to take a video out of context — a 2-year-old who doesn’t have the brain capacity to know what’s going on — and to say that this child, because two adults acted inappropriately, is going to end up in a life of crime is totally inappropriate,” Hamilton said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, which filed an excessive force suit against the Omaha Police Department on behalf of an African-American family Monday, said the union’s use of “racially charged language” was “very disconcerting.”
“Officers should be working to build a culture where anyone feels comfortable calling law enforcement,” ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Becki Brenner said in a prepared statement. “The manner in which the Officers Association has discussed this incident has done nothing but further erode community trust and reinforce the need for independent oversight, trainings, and other reforms.”
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer tried to distance his agency from the controversy Tuesday, saying that the union’s website and Facebook page are separate from those of the Omaha Police Department. He said he has little authority over the public statements of union members.
“With that background and understanding, I want to make it explicit and clear that the views expressed on the OPOA Facebook page do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the Omaha Police Department,” Schmaderer said. “I strongly disagree with any postings that may cause a divide in our community or an obstacle to police community relations.”
Wells said union members have turned the video over to the department’s child victim unit.
The child and his mother are in protective custody for safety reasons. Court records obtained by the affiliate show the toddler was among five injured in October when shots were fired at a home.
The boy and his mother have been relocated by the state in the past over gang activity fears, according to the affiliate.
By Faith Karimi and Matt Smith
CNN’s Casey Wian and Jack Hannah contributed to this report.
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