Honestie Hodges, Whose Handcuffing Sparked Outrage, Dies of COVID-19 at 14

By Shani Saxon Nov 25, 2020

Honestie Hodges, who was handcuffed by Grand Rapids, Michigan, police officers when she was 11 years old in an incident that sparked national outrage, died on Sunday (November 22) at the age of 14 due to complications from COVID-19, The New York Times reports. 

The Times says of Honestie’s COVID-19 diagnosis:

Honestie developed severe stomach pains on Nov. 9, her 14th birthday. Taken to the hospital, she tested positive for the new coronavirus and was sent home. But her condition worsened that evening, an ambulance was called, and she was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Over the next few days she received iron and blood transfusions as complications arose. She was placed on a ventilator on Nov. 14. But her condition never improved.

In a post written on Go Fund Me, Honestie’s grandmother Alisa Niemeyer asked for prayers after her granddaughter was first admitted to the hospital. On Sunday, Ms. Niemeyer wrote an update: “It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell you that my beautiful, sassy, smart, loving granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus.”

Hodges made headlines after her horrifying incident with police on Dec. 6, 2017. According to The Times:

Honestie had stepped out the back door of her home with her mother and another family member to go to the store when they were confronted by police officers with their guns drawn.

“Put your hands on top of your—,” an officer ordered them before he was interrupted by Honestie’s mother screaming, “She is 11 years old, sir!”

“Stop yelling!” the officer responded, as recorded by an officer’s body camera. He ordered Honestie to walk backward toward him with her hands up.

A second officer grabbed her arms, pulled them behind her back and handcuffed her. Honestie shouted, “No, No, No!” pleading with the officers not to place the cuffs on her. The police, who said they had been searching for a 40-year-old woman in connection with a stabbing, removed the handcuffs after several minutes.

The incident sparked a major backlash across the country. David Rahinsky, who was police chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department at the time, expressed regret over the officers’ actions. “Listening to the 11-year-old’s response makes my stomach turn; it makes me physically nauseous,” he said

Reports The Times:

None of the officers were disciplined because they had not violated any departmental policies, Mr. Rahinsky wrote in a statement at the time. Nonetheless, the department acknowledged that the officers had made a mistake in how they handled the child.

While speaking to MLive.com, a Michigan news site, Honestie searched for answers days after the incident. “I have a question for the Grand Rapids police: If this happened to a white child; if her mother was screaming, ‘She’s 11,’ would you have handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car?” she asked. 

Three months after officers handcuffed Honestie, the Grand Rapids Police Department adopted the “Honestie Policy,” which "called for using the least restrictive options when dealing with youths," according to The Times. 

Looking at the life the teen could have had, Niemeyer told WOOD-TV that Honestie was “healthy and happy” with no underlying health issues.

“She could have been the vice president one day, or maybe the president,” she said. “The world was open to her.”