FLORENCE, Ala. — Roller skating rinks have been a popular weekend pastime for young people for generations. The lights, the sounds, the freedom of just being a kid—but that doesn’t mean trouble turns a blind eye.
Over the weekend, parents said that an argument broke out at the Skate Center in Florence after a white teenager used a racial slur towards a Black teenager.
Millie Anderson, the Black teen’s mother, was upset by what she learned following the incident.
“The boy’s mom or whoever came to apologize,” Anderson said. “The officer didn’t know what was going on—came over there saying everybody needs to disperse, and he told my son he needed to leave.”
Anderson said a Lauderdale County deputy pushed her son up against a wall, hurting him in the process. Anderson said she then took the boy to the hospital to make sure he was alright after complaining of soreness. She said doctors told her the soreness was from the impact.
Sheriff Rick Singleton said the deputy at the Skate Center works there as an off-duty officer. Singleton said additional officers from the sheriff’s office and Florence Police Department responded when things got heated. He said the situation didn’t escalate until dozens of teens began to crowd the area.
Witnesses told the sheriff that the deputy only used force after Anderson’s son refused to leave and began taunting him, using vulgar language.
“It was a very volatile situation,” Singleton said. “I haven’t gotten the report yet on the investigation but what the preliminary report I’ve gotten at this point, I think the deputy handled it very well.”
Other parents complained as well that officers were too rough with their children. One parent mentioned that her 13-year-old was shoved and her nephew was grabbed by his shirt and thrown to the ground.
The incident is still under investigation, but Singleton said there is a solution to avoiding situations like these.
“Don’t get involved in it,” he said. “Let the property owners, let the authorities that might be there handle it. Stay out of their way. I’m not saying police officers are right 100 percent of the time, but when they ask you to do something, do what they ask you to do and we wouldn’t be having these kinds of situations.”
Singleton said this is a case where he wishes he could release the body cam footage, but because juveniles are involved, he said he can’t at this time.
Anderson said her son is only fourteen and the situation could have been handled much better.
“I don’t think they need to be open anymore because there’s so much stuff going on out there and that’s just what I told the lieutenant,” Anderson said. “I said with the situation happening with all the officers out there, somebody could have gotten hurt. And there’re so many fights going on out there and they’re not handling it right.”