A boy who was seen tearfully hugging a police officer at a protest in a viral picture in 2014 is believed to have died along with his entire family after the SUV they were traveling in plunged off a 100-foot cliff on the California coast.
The vehicle belonging to Jennifer and Sarah Hart was discovered Monday afternoon at the bottom of a cliff near the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California, said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman at a news conference. The Harts were parents of six children, including Devonte Hart, who appeared in the photo from a protest in Portland, Oregon, against police violence.
Allman said âwe have every indication to believe that all six children were inâ the vehicle that drove off the cliff, though authorities have only recovered the bodies of the parents three children. The bodies of Devonte and two other children were still missing Wednesday evening.
âAn entire family vanished and perished during this tragedy,â Allman said, though he added that it is still also possible Devonte and two other children had been left behind with someone and werenât inside the vehicle.
Authorities first learned of the crash when a passerby noticed the vehicle lying at the bottom of the cliff near the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of Mendocino County. The engine was cold when searchers reached it, and Allman said that authorities still donât know exactly when or how the SUV drove off the road. He described the scene as âconfusing.â
âThere were no skid marks, there were no brake marks, there was no indication why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet of a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean,â he explained, adding later that âwe have no evidence and no reason to believe this is an intentional act.â
The family lived in Woodland, Washington.
Devonte, now 15, had become the best-known member of the family after he attended the November 2014 protest in Portland with a âfree hugsâ sign. Portland Sgt. Bret Barnum, who is white, reportedly saw the sign and noticed that Devonte, who is black, was crying. Barnum asked for a hug after Devonte said he was emotional over the level of police brutality facing black kids.
The image of the hug, in which Devonte is still visibly emotional, was shared thousands of times across various social media platforms. The moment also happened just months after a white officer shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, kicking off months of protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Devonte and his five siblings were adopted by Jen Hart and her wife Sarah. Jen said it was a frightening experience: âThat night, after we finally got him to sleep, I cried harder than I had ever cried in my life,â she said. âI felt like there was no way we could raise this child, and the five others we had adopted.â
After Mondayâs crash, neighbors of the Hart family told the Associated Press that they had called child welfare officials on Friday after becoming concerned because Devonte came to their house too often asking for food. The neighbors, Bruce and Dana DeKalb, also reportedly said that last year a girl from the family knocked on their door at 1:30 a.m. and said that âwe needed to protect her. She said that they were abusing her.â
Clark County sheriffâs Sgt. Brent Waddell told the AP that Child Protective Services had recently visited the family.
Allman called the crash a âtragedyâ Wednesday and showed reporters a photo of the family together and smiling. He said that the investigation was ongoing and authorities hope to piece together exactly what happened.
âThis is heartbreaking,â he added.
I dunno why people keep saying these women were âloving parentsâ
âBruce and Dana DeKalb, who lived next door, said they rarely spoke with the family, which about 10 months ago moved to the remote wooded area in northern Clark County.
Dana DeKalb said Devonte (the boy in the âhuggingâ photo) had come to their home a dozen times to ask for food, saying his parents had withheld it as a form of punishment. The teen would ask the couple to leave the food by the fence they shared so his parents wouldnât know, she said.
Such interactions prompted the DeKalbs to contact authorities, they said Wednesday outside their home.
A Clark County deputy accompanied Cowlitz County Child Protective Services to the Hart familyâs home Friday but nobody answered the door, Sgt. Brent Waddell, a Clark County Sheriffâs Office spokesman, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday.
The family and its SUV were gone the next day, Bruce DeKalb said.â [Source]
How does that not sound fucked up??
Also remember that photo was staged and forced by his adoptive parents
The cropping of an image is everything when it comes to its subjectivity and the way ideas are projected unto it.
Every picture Iâve seen of this crops out the circus of photographers that surrounded these two creating a captive audience. With such a captive audience I canât really say that the officer did anything that his superiors wouldnât have told him to do. They were there just as much for public relations as to keep the peace otherwise the dept. wouldnât have sent every queer looking, POC and female cop on the force.
The way this image has been propagandized is highly disturbing to me because it distracts from the real issues. This has never been about the relationship between individual officers and young Black men, but about the way in which our institutions and society protect cops, granting them license to use lethal force in ANY circumstance. Whether they do use it or decide to demonstrate âloveâ is irrelevant.â
I would like to add that Devonte was crying before approaching the officer while he was talking to his guardian, presumably because he was terrified. This brings the question of coercion to my mind, but Iâll let yaâll debate over it.â