Frances Mendez, the boy’s mother, told the NY Post that her son, Wilson Reyes, was detained by police at P.S. X114 in early December after he was wrongfully accused of trying to steal $5 from a classmate. Another student had allegedly brought the money in for a class trip that was canceled and dropped it on the ground in front of Wilson. Mendez says that another boy picked it up but blamed her son for taking it and a fight ensued.
When NYPD officers arrived on the scene, they handcuffed Wilson in a room for four hours and then transported him to the 44th Precinct station house, where he was held for an additional six hours.
When Mendez arrived at the precinct, she was outraged. "Imagine how I felt seeing my son in handcuffs!" she told the Post. "It was horrible. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.”
Mendez quickly snapped a photo of her son, seated on a metal chair in a dirty cell with his wrist cuffed to a metal railing.
"My son was crying, 'Mommy, it wasn't me! Mommy, it wasn't me!' I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We're traumatized," Mendez said.
An attorney for Mendez, Jack Yankowitz, filed a $250 million lawsuit against the city and the NYPD with the city’s comptroller’s office on Monday. Yankowitz said that Wilson was charged with robbery.
"It's unfathomable what the police did," Yankowitz said. "The whole thing sounds so stupid. They were interrogating him like he was a hardened criminal. If you have a child, a nephew, can you even imagine this happening to them?
“These officers are not fit to serve the citizens of New York City, and this must never happen again,” Yankowitz added in a press release.
But a law enforcement source who spoke to the Daily News called the arrest routine, saying that 7-year-olds can be charged as juveniles.
"We responded to a 911 call of a robbery and assault," a source said. "Eventually, [Mendez] was taken back to the precinct and placed in the juvenile room. He was charged with robbery. The allegation was that he punched the kid and took his money. He took the money forcibly."
"The kid came into the precinct a little bit after 3 p.m., and he was out by 7:45 p.m. ... That's standard for a juvenile arrest,” the source added.
“Everything was done properly. He was arrested for a robbery. He was taken to the precinct and put in the juvenile room. His parent was allowed to see him,” another source said, before adding that the police tried to treat the boy as kindly as possible. “We let him have pizza. We let him see his mother.”