Phoenix Police Shoot Wrong Black Teen With Rubber Bullet, Send Him to Hospital

Dion Humphrey in the hospital.
Dion Humphrey in the hospital. Facebook
Dion Humphrey says he was walking home from dropping his two sisters off at school near Southern and Seventh avenues when Phoenix police officers drove up and, without warning, threw a flashbang device and shot him with a rubber bullet.

The 19-year-old, who has sickle cell anemia and asthma and weighs about 90 pounds, is currently at Phoenix Children's Hospital recovering from the incident, which was first reported by ABC15.

Phoenix police have since admitted that it was a case of mistaken identity. When police shot Humphrey, they believed he was a suspect in an armed robbery and attempted murder that took place the day before, police said. Members of the department's Special Assignment Unit were driving an unmarked vehicle when they spotted Humphrey and threw the flashbang.

Humphrey fled after hearing the flashbang, fearing that it was a gunshot, but was blocked by a second unmarked vehicle. He was then hit with a rubber bullet and tackled to the ground.

According to police, when officers shot at Humphrey, they thought he was his half-brother, whom they were looking for in connection with a January 9 armed robbery and attempted murder. But Humphrey's father, William Humphrey, told ABC15 the two boys do not look the same and have not lived in the same home for over a decade, raising questions as to whether his son was racially profiled.

"They drove toward me, they didn't say nothing to me, and then they shot me," Humphrey said in a video posted on Facebook.

Police arrested Humphrey and interrogated him for several hours before driving the teenager home. Humphrey was in visible pain, so his father took him to the hospital, where he spent two days in the intensive care unit, according to a post written by William Humphrey on a GoFundMe page.

William Humphrey says he wants to sue the department and is seeking legal representation. He launched the GoFundMe to raise $200,000 to hire an attorney.

Phoenix police did not respond when contacted by Phoenix New Times regarding the department's use of force against Humphrey. Neither Dion Humphrey nor his father immediately responded when contacted by New Times on Facebook Messenger. William Humphrey did not respond to phone calls made to his home and cell phones.

In a statement provided to The Arizona Republic, Sergeant Tommy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department, said, "Instead of complying with the commands of the officers attempting to take him into custody, the man ran."

"To ensure that the man, believed to be a suspect in the armed robbery, didn't get away and create a greater danger, keep in mind this occurred near a school, where he had just come from, the SAU officers shot him with a baton round. He was then taken into custody," Thompson told the Republic, adding that they "determined he was not a suspect in the armed robbery."

"It Scares me too [sic] go back through my head when I close my eyes or even daydream to replay the same morning that got me too [sic] the hospital," Humphrey wrote in a Facebook post. "If I think about it I feel like I’m repeating that same day and my pain just gets worse ... It’s scary to know that i could have died I’m so happy I am in the hospital recovering my wounds and pain. I appreciate you guys for looking out for me and praying for me."
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.