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‘Suspicious’ 11-year-old was delivering newspapers — so a neighbor called the police

Brandie Sharp said she and her sons — Mycah, 17, and Uriah, 11 — were delivering the newspaper in Upper Arlington, Ohio, when an officer asked what they were doing. Police say a neighbor called cops on Uriah because he looked “suspicious.”
Brandie Sharp said she and her sons — Mycah, 17, and Uriah, 11 — were delivering the newspaper in Upper Arlington, Ohio, when an officer asked what they were doing. Police say a neighbor called cops on Uriah because he looked “suspicious.” Screenshot from ABC6

A police officer stopped Brandie Sharp and her two sons as they delivered newspapers in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

Sharp, who is black, told ABC6 that it was Friday at 5:30 p.m. when the officer asked her what she was doing in the neighborhood with her 11-year-old son, Uriah, and his 17-year-old brother, Mycah.

"I showed him the thing for the Dispatch, The Bag, the midday week paper, that we get," she said, "and he said, 'Oh, really?' and by that time I was kind of like, 'OK, why are you questioning me about this?'"

A neighbor had called the police and said they saw a person going up to houses and leaving with an item, police spokesman Bryan McKean told NBC4. The woman called it "suspicious," police say, and an officer headed to scene to figure out what was happening.

Sharp had a simple explanation for what the caller reported: Her son Uriah was retrieving papers that were left at the wrong places.

"We had delivered to the wrong houses," she told ABC6, "so (Uriah) went to go grab the newspapers to make sure everything was OK."

In a press release on Facebook, the City of Upper Arlington Police Division wrote that the officer was just responding "to a report of suspicious activity concerning a vehicle and two people on foot."

"The first officer to arrive quickly determined it was a team of people delivering printed advertising materials," the statement reads, "and reported back that there was no issue."

McKean told NBC that the family's race did not alter how the department handled the situation.

“Any time we get a call like that obviously we’re going to respond,” McKean said. “We’re going to make sure that nothing criminal was going on. If we think someone is taking things from porches, we would want our police force to follow up on that to make sure.”

Some people commented on the police department's Facebook post, writing that the officer was just doing his job and instead shifting blame to the person who called authorities in the first place.

"The problem isn't with our extraordinary police department," one person wrote. "The problem is with some residents who feel compelled to report issues that are benign in nature because of the color of someone's skin. If this happens once it's one time too many. But sadly, this isn't a one-off event."

While others argued the police department failed to properly apologize for its actions.

"UA you can do better," a person commented. "Offer up apologies to the child and his mom. When was the last time a call like this was made on a white child in UA? The police responded to a residents call. Get yourselves together UA."

And Sharp left an impassioned comment on the police department's Facebook status.

"HOW DOES SOMETHING SO HONEST AND HARMLESS get this kind of outcome," she wrote. "I am VERY UPSET my children have to experience something like this."

After all that happened, Uriah told ABC6 that he won't stop delivering papers, even if the incident was unsettling.

Sharp, however, wrote on her personal Facebook page that she doesn't plan to return to the same neighborhood.

"My apologies Upper Arlington for bringing my African American son into your neighborhood to deliver the paper and make a few dollars on the side," she wrote. "I will make sure my boss changes his route."

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