Parents of an Alabama teenager said Friday that their handcuffed son was severely beaten during a run-in with police and they want answers from authorities about what happened.
The mother of 17-year-old Ulysses Wilkerson posted an image of her son's bruised and swollen face on Facebook and the photo was widely shared on social media. Wilkerson, who is black, was walking behind a downtown business in the city of Troy when he was startled by police on the night of Dec. 23, representatives for the family said in a statement. He ran from the officers and when police caught up to him, they beat him, the family said.
"As a mother I was shocked devastated and horrified to see my son this way," Angela Williams said Friday at a news conference with other family members. Some of them wore All Lives Matter T-shirts and occasionally wiped away tears.
Police said they used force after Wilkerson reached into his waistband for what they feared might be a weapon, Pike County District Attorney Tom Anderson told CNN . Wilkerson was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental operations, both misdemeanors, city officials said.
The mayor of Troy, Jason Reeves, said he asked for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to review the incident. He said the officer involved has been placed on leave.
"I thought it was important for the state to ... give an independent assessment of the matter," Reeves said in a statement.
Wilkerson's eye socket was broken in three places and his face was severely swollen, his family said.
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a local activist who is working with the family, said the teen has few memories about what happened.
"He remembers one thing, a big tall white officer kicking him in the face. He remembers that," Glasgow said.
While Wilkerson is African-American and remembers being kicked by a white officer, the family stressed that it was not a racial issue. Glasgow said the family didn't care about the race of the police officer.
Troy is a city of about 19,000 people, some 50 miles south of the state capital of Montgomery. About 55 percent of the population is white and 39 percent African-American, according to the 2010 Census. The city's main employer is Troy University.
"The mother asks for justice. The father asks for justice. He didn't care if he was white, black purple or polka dotted. ... It's not about black and white. It's about right and wrong," Glasgow said.
Attorneys for the family said Troy police owe the "community answers and transparency."
"Where is the dash cam footage? Where is the body camera footage? Ulysses' family and the community deserve answers," the attorneys said.
The lawyers include Ben Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was killed by George Zimmerman in Florida, and Michael Brown, a 17-year-old African-American who was shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Zimmerman was acquitted and the Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson, was not indicted.