Being a Black mother in Minnesota is 'terrifying'

Being a Black mother in Minnesota is 'terrifying'
Protesters gathered in the State Capitol rotunda ahead of the debate to urge the Minnesota House to reject the compromise and pass tougher measures in police accountability in the Public Safety Bill, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. Listening, right, is Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, whose fiancé, Justin Teigen, a Black man, was found dead in a recycling bin after fleeing from St. Paul police in 2009, in circumstances that remain in dispute. In red is Courteney Ross, who was George Floyd's girlfriend.AP Photo/Jim Mone
  • Toshira Garraway was overcome with fear when she got the call that her son was being detained.
  • Maplewood Police handcuffed her son and other minors after reports of gunshots by a local business but later released them.

Toshira Garraway's mind goes to the worst-case scenario if her son isn't home on time. Those scenarios more often than not involve police.

Living in Minnesota, a state grappling with such high-profile cases of police misconduct — George Floyd in May 2020, Daunte Wright in April 2021, and Amir Locke earlier this year — Garraway said she constantly worries about her young Black son crossing paths with an officer.

"You don't know what to think half the time," she said. "I'm worried. I'm scared."

Still, her fears did not prepare her for last month.

Garraway had come home from a vigil commemorating the anniversary of the death of Wright, a Black man fatally shot during a traffic stop by a Minnesota police officer, when Garraway received a call from her 16-year-old son, Justin Jr.,who was in the backseat of a squad car.


The Maplewood Police Department detained a group of youths between the ages of 10 and 16 after officers responded to a report about shots fired near a local business.

Garraway said she rushed to the scene where she and other mothers began pleading with officers to release their children because they were not connected to the incident.

"They never called any parents, and they had the opportunity to do that. And they patted our kids down, handcuffed them, and put them in squad cars and never called us," Garraway said.

"I started yelling at the officer because I was upset: 'Why are you treating our kids like this? You don't treat white kids like this?'" she added.

'I kept wanting to cry'

Being a Black mother in Minnesota is 'terrifying'
Toshira Garraway, her fiance, who she says was killed by police in 2009, and their son.Courtesy of Toshira Garraway

In a video posted on Facebook Live by Tiffany Burns, whose brother Jamar Clark was shot and killed by Minneapolis police in 2015, officers can be seen removing handcuffs after pleas from their mothers. The video was also shared by national civil rights attorney Ben Crump.


"My baby got tears in his eyes," Garraway, the founder of Families Supporting Families against Police Violence, said in the video. "Y'all retraumatizing our kids."

Justin Jr. had only taken his friends to a Mcdonald's near their home when the encounter with police happened.

"I kept wanting to cry, but I had little kids with me, and I know if I started crying, they were going to start crying," Justin Jr., who was the oldest of the group of youths, told Insider. "So I just tried to laugh and stuff."

The 16-year-old said his mother prepped him for situations like this. Garraway had been propelled into activism after her fiance's death, which she said was at the hands of police in 2009

"Stay calm, don' start acting out because they'll use any reason to try to lock you up. Don't argue, and don't make any bad moves," he said he'd been taught.


'I don't got no gun officer'

The day after the encounter, Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said at a press conference that the four children were spotted an estimated 200 yards near the area where gunshots were heard and were approached by officers.

Two of the children ran, Steiner said, but returned voluntarily to the scene.

"The four juveniles were detained for approximately 40 minutes while officers conducted their preliminary investigation, less than half of which they were handcuffed and seated in squad cars," Steiner said. "After officers reviewed video surveillance, the juveniles located in the area were not the juveniles who were originally observed on video surveillance. Following that determination, the juveniles were released into the custody of their parent or guardian."

He added, "Our officers acted very professionally during this incident and exactly how we would expect them to act. We are proud of their response and their work on this incident."

In a statement to Insider, Steiner echoed the remarks and the breakdown of the encounter he gave at the press briefing. The police also released the 46-minute body camera footage.


In the video, the police questioned the children about the incident, to which they responded that they had no involvement.

"I don't got no gun officer," one kid could be heard saying in the video.

The footage shows the kids and two officers waiting by a gas station where police then handcuff and escort them to the squad cars.

Around the 30-minute mark, the mothers arrive at the scene, asking officers to remove the handcuffs and release their children.

"My baby is already traumatized by the shit that the police have done in this state," Garraway said during a heated exchange with officers at the scene, according to the bodycam footage.


She told Insider she is not anti-police but said she was scared for her son, and proposed reforms are not easily easing Garraway's worries anytime soon. Garraway said that the mothers are considering legal action.

"One thing that Katie Wright mentioned to me," Garraway said, referring to the mother of Daunte Wright, "She said, 'Toshira you got the same call that I got on the exact same day — the only difference between me and you is that you made it to your son alive, and I didn't make it to mine alive.'"

She added, "And that just sent chills through my body because it was the exact same night, a year later."