WATCH: Parents and Police at Odds Over 14-Year-Old Boy’s Arrest Gone Viral

March 23, 2018

SAN JOSE — A viral video involving a 14-year-old San Jose boy’s arrest for an alleged assault at a city park earlier this week has unexpectedly drawn hundreds of thousands of viewers from all over the country.

The boy’s family posted the video Monday, shortly after the arrest that morning at Los Paseos Park off Santa Teresa Boulevard.

“He’s a little shaken up, doesn’t really know what’s going on,” said the boy’s father, Manuel Mirabal, who shot the video. “He’s kind of scared of cops now.”

Police objected to the notion the boy was the victim, saying the video was a selective glimpse of a much longer encounter that began long before Mirabal’s camera started recording.

“That video just encapsulates the frustration of the dad coming on scene after this event occurs. It doesn’t portray the whole event from beginning to the end,” said San Jose police Assistant Chief Dave Knopf. “Based on the investigation, an assault and battery occurred, that was what the officers were addressing.”

The police account of the arrest states that the boy was walking in the park when he made “derogatory statements” to two other people. The reported victim then approached the boy in an attempt to defuse the situation, and a physical struggle broke out. Police said the boy punched the would-be peacemaker in the face, inflicting minor injuries.

Cellphone footage shot by the boy’s father after the arrest shows his son being led away in handcuffs. Unsatisfied with a police sergeant’s explanation, Mirabal questions him.

At one point the sergeant replies, “It really strongly appears that he was the cause of everything that happened.” Police said multiple witnesses corroborated that the boy was the instigator.

Insisting that his son was defending himself against oncoming strangers, Mirabal asks, “So if someone says something to someone, expressing their First Amendment right, you’re telling me that someone can go punch him in the face?”

In what police would later describe as an attempt to defuse the tension, the sergeant gave a passive nod. Mirabal, apparently feeling that he had a gotcha moment, then left.

Knopf said the sergeant was prioritizing peace in the moment.

“The officers did the best they could under the circumstances. It was a tense situation,” he said.

Mirabal posted the video on Facebook later that morning. To date, it’s garnered over 457,000 views, has been shared nearly 15,000 times, and elicited hundreds of comments and replies.

Mirabal said his son was released from Juvenile Hall on Tuesday. He said the boy was walking near his school when two people asked him where he was going, and things escalated.

“Why are they even challenging a kid? I’ve taught my kids to stand up for themselves, and that when strangers ask where they’re going, to tell them it’s none of their business,” Mirabal said.

The encounter marks another in a growing number of instances where social media has empowered citizens to seize control of narratives that were previously commanded by police reports and news releases, leaving police having to quell unrest online as well as on the street.

“One of the issues we deal with, when people utilize social media to tell a story, not all of the facts are presented,” Knopf said. “Understandably, you have a father upset about his 14-year-old son being arrested, but it was a one-way conversation. To be fair, you need both sides of the story so people can get a better understanding.”

Mirabal said he has filed a police complaint, and has been heartened by an outpouring of support since he posted the video.

“It feels good,” he said. “No one wants to go through this alone.”