This obituary is part of a series on people who died in a coronavirus epidemic. Read about others here.
Honestie Hodges, who was handcuffed at the age of 11 by police in front of her house in Grand Rapids, Michigan, died Sunday. It was a scary event that sparked outrage and national news in 2017. He was 14 years old.
Her death at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids was caused by Covid-19, her grandmother Alisa Niemeyer wrote on the GoFundMe website.
The incident occurred on December 6, 2017. Honestie stepped out the back door of her home with her mother and another family member to go to the store when police confronted a gun.
“Put your hand on top,” an officer ordered, and Honestie’s mother interrupted, “11 years old, sir!”
“Stop screaming!” the officer replied, as recorded by the officer’s body camera. He ordered Honestie to move backwards with her hands up.
A second officer grabbed his arm, pulled him behind his back, and held him in handcuffs. Honestie shouted, “No, No, No!” begging the officers not to put the cuffs on him. Police, who said a 40-year-old woman was wanted for a stab, removed the handcuffs several minutes later.
The incident sparked widespread upheaval that led to a soul search within the Grand Rapids Police Department. At a press conference, then-Chief of Police David Rahinsky said that “listening to the 11-year-old’s response, my stomach turns; physically nausea. He retired in 2019.
None of the officers were disciplined because they did not violate all class policies, Mr. Rahinsky wrote in a statement at the time. Nevertheless, the class acknowledged that the officers had made a mistake in treating the child.
By this time, police had already received criticism for a similar meeting in March in which five innocent teenagers were held in arms.
Then Honestie, who was black, spoke. “I would have a question for Grand Rapids police: If it had happened to a white child, if his mother had yelled‘ 11 years old ’, would he have been handcuffed and implanted in the back of a police car?
In March 2018, the police adopted an “Honest Policy” that called for the use of the least restrictive options when dealing with young people. Nevertheless, more cases of police showing children with guns have heightened tensions in Grand Rapids. Local television, WOOD-TV, reported this summer that Honestie and her family were in talks with the city to settle a claim for the handcuff incident.
Honestie developed severe stomach pains on November 9, her 14th birthday. The new coronavirus was taken to hospital and sent home. But his condition had deteriorated that night, an ambulance was called and admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital. He received iron and blood transfusions in the following days as complications arose. He was placed on a ventilator on November 14th. But his condition never improved. Ms. Niemeyer updated the GoFundMe page to ask for prayers.
Then on Sunday, Ms. Niemeyer wrote, “I have to tell you with an extremely heavy heart that my beautiful, cheeky, smart, loving granddaughter went home to Jesus.”
Ms. Niemeyer created the GoFundMe site to raise donations for her daughter, Whitney Hodges, who had to stop working to care for Honestie and her four other children.
Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Rights, said Honestie is not the youngest person to die in Covid-19 in Michigan.
The Federal Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Covid-19 deaths were rare among children, but Spanish and black children were more likely than their white counterparts to be hospitalized or admitted to the hospital.
Ms. Niemeyer told WOOD-TV that Honestie was “healthy and happy” and had no underlying health problems.
“It could have been a vice president once, or maybe a president,” Ms. Niemeyer said. – The world was open to him.