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Attorneys representing the families of four children detained by Maplewood Police earlier this month are claiming officers violated the U.S. Constitution and used excessive force during the incident. 

Minneapolis-based attorney Jeff Storms joined civil rights attorney Ben Crump for a press conference with the children's mothers on Monday. 

Storms said the officer's "wrongful detention" of the four children "amounted to a formal arrest", went against the department's own policy and violated the U.S. Constitution. 

He indicated a formal lawsuit has not yet been filed, but said they've gathered "more than sufficient evidence" to back their claims and plan to pursue accountability through "every means necessary." 

Last week, the city released body-worn camera footage of the incident and made several statements supporting the officer's actions during the investigation. 

New details  

The incident began around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11 when police learned the sound of gunfire had been captured on a security camera. 

The camera footage showed four individuals in the area moments before the shots were heard, according to Maplewood Police. 

Police in the area quickly detained four children, who'd been reportedly out walking home after leaving McDonald's. Two of the youngest children initially ran from officers, but later returned to the scene and were detained. 

Three of the children involved are Black and one is Latino, according to Storms. The youngest is 10-years-old, two children are 12-years old and the oldest is 16-years-old. 

Storms says the individuals captured in the surveillance footage are clearly older than the four children detained by officers in connection with the gunfire. 

The clothing descriptions also don't match, Storms said, yet an officer repeatedly told the children they'd been captured on surveillance cameras. 

Body-worn camera footage shows the children repeatedly tell officers they have no weapon and don't know anything about the shots reportedly fired in the area. 

About 20 minutes into their encounter with police, the children are handcuffed and placed into the back of squad cars. 

Storms and Crump both claim officers had no legal basis to handcuff the children because they'd not produced any evidence connecting the children to the gunfire. 

Approximately 20 minutes later, the children are released after Toshira Garraway, the 16-year-old's mother, arrives on-scene and begins yelling at officers, demanding the children be released. 

During Monday's press conference, Crump called the officer's actions "reprehensible" and said these types of incidents deepen mistrust between police and communities of color. 

Crump has represented a number of families in the Twin Cities in recent civil rights cases involving law enforcement, including the families of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and Amir Locke following their killings by police.

The city responds 

In a press release Monday, the City of Maplewood said the children  were located by an officer about 200 yards away from the business surveillance camera that recorded the gunfire. 

While questioning the children for about 20 minutes, other officers reviewing the surveillance footage confirmed shots had been fired. 

"That provided further probable cause to handcuff the juveniles on suspicion that a felony crime involving the discharge of a firearm had occurred while additional surveillance review was conducted," the press release states. "Upon reviewing the additional security footage, it was determined that the four detained were not the same as the four individuals on the video." 

The gunfire remains under investigation by the Maplewood Police Department. 

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