As communities across the country seek peace amid the unrest that has, at times, marred peaceful George Floyd protests, a Texas police officer was seen comforting a frightened-looking 5-year-old girl who asked during a demonstration in Houston: “Are you gonna shoot us?”
Footage of the incident was posted by the little girl’s father, Simeon Bartee, on Twitter on Wednesday, along with a caption describing the extraordinary encounter.
“During the protest in Houston yesterday one of the police officers noticed my daughter crying,” Bartee wrote in the June 3 tweet. “She asked him ‘Are you gonna shoot us’ he got down on one knee wrapped his arm around her and responded.”
The officer, who was dressed in protective riot gear, clarified he was there to help keep her safe.
“We’re here to protect you,” the officer said. “We’re not here to hurt you at all. OK? You can protest, you can party—you can do whatever you want. Just don’t break nothing.”
The 5-year-old’s father told ABC News that the encounter made him feel hopeful about police-community relations, which he said had been strained by an incident of alleged police brutality involving Jerome Bartee, his brother, dating back to 2016.
“We have dealt with a lot of pain from that and it’s kind of gone full circle for me now,” the girl’s father told ABC. “I just want to tell the officer thank you for giving me a different perspective on what police officers, the good police officers, are like.”
Jerome Bartee, a former inmate, was left with extensive injuries after a group of Harris County jailers allegedly assaulted him so brutally that Assistant District Attorney Jules Johnson said he was “beaten to the point he was unrecognizable.”
It took over a year for the five corrections officers involved to be indicted and charged with crimes in Bartee’s beating.
Protests like the one at which the encounter between the little girl and the Houston officer took place, were sparked by the police custody death of George Floyd.
Floyd died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, after a police officer restrained him with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes as he gasped for air and said, “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd’s official cause of death, according to a full 20-page autopsy report made public on Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, was cardiopulmonary arrest while he was being restrained by police.
The autopsy also cited “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” The manner of death was listed as homicide.
Floyd’s death, which resulted in criminal charges against four Minneapolis police officers, fueled widespread protests, some of which have become violent.
Yet over the past several days, the demonstrations have become more peaceful following days of riots, looting, and arson.