A WPTV viewer took photos of a boy she saw shackled at the ankles sitting by himself at a Boca Mall. She said when she asked the Boca Raton Police officer about why the child was sitting by himself, handcuffed, she claims the officer responded by telling her she would get kicked out of the mall, even arrested for taking pictures. This after a security guard told her she could not take pictures.
"Seeing him on the ground shackled by himself was obviously very alarming," said Tiffany Frost.
Frost said the boy looked to be in elementary school and his ankles were cuffed as he sat on the floor in front of a store at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall.
"Initially, you don't see the shackles and then when you see a crowd of about 15 people, you realize there is, well he's sitting there and he's probably about 8 or 9-years-old and he was sort of in his own world and he's got the shackles on his feet," she said.
Frost is a teacher and she said she felt she had a responsibility to stick up for the child.
"What could he possibly have done that would motivate people in authority to police his body and criminalize him instead of speaking to him like a human being, it was terrifying," added Frost.
Boca Raton Police say the officers at the mall were investigating the boy and another older child after allegedly stealing an iPhone and two sunglasses. When they arrived, the mall security already had both children in custody. During the investigation, police say the child in the picture became physical with one of the officers; handcuffs were too big for his wrists so his ankles were shackled. Law enforcement expert Robert Buchholz said he's never seen that done to a child before.
"I would be interested certainly to see the body cam video of what was the child doing that kind of caused the officer to think that the child may flee," said Buchholz.
Boca Raton Police will not release the body camera video at this time.
Frost was angry the boy was cuffed in the common area of the mall.
"Seems like there might have been a more appropriate way to handle the situation potentially privately and you know maybe not in front of 20 people," she said.
Buchholz said although Boca Police did have to investigate the alleged theft since two stores were pressing charges, Buchholz believes it's also the officer's job to protect the identity of the child.
"Normally what you would do in a case of shoplifting or theft is obviously move the individuals to a location that is more secure and obviously a little more private and especially cause you're dealing with a child," he added.
The case is still under investigation.
WPTV reached out to Simon Malls, which manages the Town Center at Boca Raton, and a spokesperson said the property did not have any information to share.