Police were called as a 12-year-old black boy was on his paper route because a woman assumed he was doing something suspicious. Brandie Sharp told authorities her son Uriah hands out newspapers in the Upper Arlington area of Columbus, Ohio. She said Uriah realized he delivered newspapers to the wrong address and went back to retrieve them. According to local police, this is what prompted the neighbor to dial 911.
"I noticed they were walking up to houses with nothing in hand and one of them came back with something," the 911 caller said. "It seemed kind of suspicious." Once the cops arrived, Brandie explained what happened and they deduced nothing suspicious took place.
In a Facebook post, Brandie lamented that what should've been a moment about work ethic turned into an encounter with the police. "First day of [a] paper route and we are pulled over by the police," she wrote. "Sad I cant even teach my son the value of working without someone whispering and looking at us out the side of their eye perhaps because we DON'T 'look like a person that belongs in their neighborhood.'"
Sharpe says she's going to change the route to avoid the neighborhood. After the Facebook post went viral, local police released a statement in hopes to quell any outrage around racial bias. "We have seen some conversations on Facebook relative to a police response to a report of suspicious activity that turned out to be completely benign," officials wrote.
Brandie and Uriah's encounter with law enforcement for doing seemingly every day activities isn't an isolated incident. Alison Ettel called police on an 8-year-old black girl selling water in the Bay Area. In late April, a white woman called police on a man barbecuing in the park, and a white woman called the police on a black Yale student sleeping in the dorm.