Police detain mother in front of children, mistaken for thief

The family stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom and minutes later were surrounded by Cobb County Police officers with their guns drawn.
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
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COBB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) - A metro Atlanta mother claims police in Cobb County detained her and her children after mistaking her for a thief.

Deondra Hawkins told CBS46 she and her children were traumatized by what happened to them last Friday at the RaceTrac on Windy Hill Road in Cobb County.

“I’m traumatized when I hear children crying when I see police driving,” she added. “It’s just difficult to deal with.”

The family stopped at the gas station so Hawkins’s two teens could use the bathroom and grab some snacks. Minutes later, Hawkins’s car was surrounded by officers from Cobb County Police.

“The police pulled up with their guns out, saying, ‘Get out the car’ and I’m like, ‘I didn’t do anything’ and that’s when the chaos unfolded,” Hawkins said.

Video taken from a delivery truck driver shows Hawkins complying with police demands. She’s handcuffed as her children exit the store. Her daughter, Leah, is seen in another video panicking and being pulled away by an officer.

Hawkins said police put Leah in a separate car and held her 18-year-old son, who has autism, on the ground. She and Leah were most concerned about how he might react.

“Especially them having guns pointed at him, and he walks up to them, my fear is he will be shot because he was Black,” Leah said.

All three were released after about 5 minutes. Hawkins said police told her they were looking for a tall, thin suspect, linked to an armed robbery.

“I was like how you mix us up with the person and he said, ‘You had the same make and model car.’”

The family’s lawyer, Kayla Bumpus of Esquire Litigation Group, is now demanding a full investigation, sensitivity training, and accountability.

“There was no sensitivity and these officers acted with a high level of aggression when there was no indication of any weapons, no indication of anyone failing to cooperate and it was just extremely unnecessary,” said Bumpus.

Late Thursday, Cobb County Police confirmed the incident happened writing in a statement, “although the detainees confirmed they had left the shopping center located across the street from the armed robbery in their white Hyundai as the witness described, officers released the detainees at the scene concluding they may not have been involved.”

The department said the case remains an active and open investigation.