A state prosecutor in Michigan has dismissed an aggravated assault charge against a 10-year-old boy who threw a dodgeball at a classmate’s head during a game, in a case that has prompted many to come to his defence.
The boy, whose name is Bryce, allegedly threw a ball at another boy while playing tips/dodgeball during recess, according to a Facebook post by his mother, Cameishi Triplett Lindley. The ball allegedly hit the other boy in the head and injured him.
The alleged victim’s mother, who is white, has come under heavy criticism for pursuing legal action against the young boy, who is black, almost three months after the incident occurred.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy opted not to pursue the charges on Wednesday afternoon.
“I have no doubt that both families involved love their children and want the best for them,” Worthy wrote in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “But I do think that there is a better way to forward at this time. And the cooperation of all parties is needed.”
She added that there was nothing wrong with reporting the case to authorities, but there are more options available to sort out the dispute beyond the juvenile justice system.
“The mother of the alleged victim had every right to go to the authorities and the authorities had an obligation to investigate,” Worthy wrote.
Bryce’s mother says the school suspended her son for one day on Apr. 30 because the other boy had a “preexisting condition” involving a chronic issue with his brain stem. Then, on July 24, Lindley was informed that Bryce had been charged with aggravated assault.
“I’m just as shocked as those of you reading our story,” she wrote on Facebook. “Clearly, this student should not have been playing a physical contact sport.”
Police say the child suspect intentionally threw the ball at the other child, according to their report. The report also suggests that Bryce threw the ball during a break in the game.
“He sustained facial tissue damage to his face,” the injured boy’s mother told local station WXYZ in Detroit. “He had a black eye and a bruised nose.”
Medical records obtained by WXYZ show the boy also sustained a concussion.
The mother says she pressed charges because this is not the first time her son has been injured, and she doesn’t want it to happen again when the kids go back to school in September.
“My son was hit twice in the face with a ball previously due to this,” she told the news station, which allowed her to remain anonymous. “The child apologized to my son and my son said ‘Mom, it’s OK, we’re still going to be friends,'” the mother said.
Lindley says she’s not aware of any past incidents, and she was shocked that the other parent opted to press charges against a 10-year-old. She added that Bryce was not aware of the other child’s medical condition.
“These kids are basically playing a game we all have played,” she told WXYZ. “I’m sorry that her child got hurt. I’d be sorry for any child that got hurt.”
The case has sparked intense feelings on social media. Some have criticized the school and the victim’s parents for not making the boy’s medical condition more well-known. Others have questioned the optics of a young black boy facing charges for targeting a white child. (The targeted boy’s mother is white, but the boy’s ethnicity has not been released.)
“It was DODGEBALL!” user Nicole Dianca wrote on the school district’s Facebook page on Monday. “Kids should NOT be charged with assault when the game objective is to NOT get hit!”
The Wayne County prosecutor says no one in her office paid attention to the race of either boy involved when reviewing the case.
“It is categorically wrong to suggest that this was charged based on race or geography,” Worthy wrote in her statement.
More than 500 people contributed to a fundraiser Lindley launched on Facebook to pay for Bryce’s legal defence. Lindley initially asked for US$4,000, but the campaign has since brought in more than $20,000.
“I am very thankful to each and every one of you for all the love you’ve shown my son,” she wrote in a Facebook update on Tuesday.
Worthy says the charge in the case is “sustainable,” but she opted nevertheless to dismiss it.
“It is my earnest hope that both sides will come back to the table to work out a solution that benefits both of these children,” Worthy said.