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PD: Teen hospitalized after being misidentified as suspect by federal agent

Posted: 8:38 PM, Jan 16, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-21 12:57:03-05
Dion Humphrey misidentified.jpg

PHOENIX — The Phoenix police department is clarifying that a teen hospitalized after being misidentified as a suspect in an armed robbery and attempted murder was because of a federal agent, not a Phoenix police officer.

On Thursday, Phoenix police told ABC15 that a Phoenix police officer misidentified the teen during a case they were working involving an attempted murder, but they have since clarified it was a federal agent with the ATF Crime Gun Enforcement Team that made the identification.

The federal agents were working jointly with the Phoenix Police Department when the misidentification was made.

Dion Humphrey, 19, is at Phoenix Children's Hospital where his family tells ABC15 he has swelling around his heart from his encounter with authorities.

"They didn't respond to him in any humane fashion," said his father, William Humphrey.

On Friday, Humphrey said he was walking home from dropping his sisters off at school when he heard what sounded like a gunshot from a white vehicle, so he took off running.

The teen didn't know at the time, that the unmarked vehicle was the Phoenix Police Department and the ATF firing a stun grenade as they thought he was a suspect in a case being investigated by the Special Assignment Unit.

Humphrey said he was then blocked off by a second unmarked vehicle, was hit with non-lethal force, and tackled to the ground.

A spokesperson for the ATF told ABC15 that it was a Phoenix police officer who fired the baton rounds.

Humphrey suffers from a medical condition of sickle cell anemia and asthma, making him very fragile, according to his family. The teen weighs no more than 90 pounds.

A spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department tells ABC15 that they used the auditory diversionary device because of violence from an incident the day before. Baton rounds were also used on the teen because they say they thought he was trying to get away, potentially creating a greater danger with a school nearby.

Police were in the area of Alta Vista Road searching for two suspects involved in an armed robbery and attempted murder the day before. On January 9, Phoenix police were called to a 66-year-old man who was shot by four people during an armed robbery that left him in critical condition. Two of the suspects, both teens, were arrested. There are two more people police are looking for after that incident.

Federal and local authorities tell ABC15 that they misidentified the teen because they are searching for his half brother, who they want to question in connection to the crimes.

However, Humphrey's father claims his half brother, who grew up with the mother, hasn't lived in the same home for over a decade.

Police updated ABC15 on Friday saying that Dion indicated to authorities that he shares a room with his brother at a location -- but it's unclear which house that is referred to.

However, William Humphrey, father to Dion, said his son does not look like his half brother. According to pictures, the half brother has dread locks, facial hair, and tattoos.

Below is a photo of Khalil Thornton, who is the actual wanted suspect.

Khalil Thornton wanted.png

Police say Humphrey was wearing a beanie at the time, when they mistook him for Thornton.

"It definitely makes me question if he was profiled," said William.

The department said after questioning for hours, they drove Humphrey home.

Humphrey's father saw his son in pain, and took him to the hospital where he was put in an intensive care unit for five days.

ATF agents say that there will not be an investigation into the case, because it was a mistake by agents. ABC15 is told that while conducting their investigation, Dion left a home they had searched, and that's how they misidentified the teen.

They also say a paramedic checked out to evaluate the brother once he was detained, and was released.

The family plans to file a formal complaint against the department.