Ever since he could walk, Malcolm Ziglar has loved bikes. For the soft-spoken 14-year-old, there’s no better feeling than zipping through the woods on a dirt bike or a four-wheeler, enjoying the scenery around him. About a year ago, he started working on dirt bikes—“just to open them up and see what’s inside,” he said.

The hobby morphed into tutoring other kids in how to fix their bikes. Through that budding entrepreneurial enterprise—along with mowing lawns and washing cars—he saved up $900 to buy himself a used motorbike. He invested money and time into repairing the bike himself and listed it for sale on Facebook Marketplace for a modest profit.

On the afternoon of January 30, some interested buyers stopped by the Ziglar home to see the bike. A short time later, Malcolm, who is Black, was in his front yard with a white friend when two Fuquay-Varina police cars pulled up with their lights flashing. Within seconds, Malcolm was placed in handcuffs, searched, and shoved in the back of a police car as officers ignored his repeated pleas to get his father and retrieve proof he’d paid for the bike.

His white friend was also cuffed. But, after telling the officer he wasn’t involved with the sale, he was quickly released.

The officer shut the cruiser door on the frightened teenager, and—in body camera footage reviewed by the child’s mother, Ty Ziglar—allegedly told the second officer on the scene that Malcolm had been “running his mouth.”

“No, Mr. Officer. He was doing his best to clearly communicate to you his desire for his dad and the bill of sale to prove his innocence,” an emotional Ty said during a Friday press conference with Emancipate North Carolina. “You were never there to hear my son. You were only there to arrest him.”

If the cop could hear the white teenager’s explanation, she asked, “Why could you not hear my son?”

The INDY has requested the body camera footage from Fuquay-Varina Police Department. Spokeswoman Susan Weis said the release of the footage is being reviewed by Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

In a series of Facebook posts, the police department stated that the incident is under review, while also citing several state statutes that allow for minors to be detained with probable cause as justification for the officer’s behavior.

“This is an ongoing investigation, and we request an opportunity to investigate this fully before everyone forms an opinion,” stated the post, which has nearly 1,000 comments. “We genuinely care about our entire community and regret when situations occur when anyone is impacted negatively during investigations.”

According to the post, the bike had been reported stolen from Harnett County. After the owner spotted it on Facebook, she approached Malcolm under the guise of buying it from him and called the police.

Malcolm, of course, had no idea the bike was previously stolen. He’d purchased it legitimately and even obtained a bill of sale.

While Malcolm was cuffed in the back of the cruiser, the bike’s former owner approached the Ziglar home, Ty says, and confronted her husband, saying, “Next time you want something, earn it.” The first responding officer remained in the car. 

Within 30 minutes, a supervising officer arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, and released Malcolm.

“In that moment, I was just in shock,” Malcolm said Friday. “I knew if I retaliated, I might not be here today.”

Emancipate NC and the Ziglar family are calling on the Fuquay-Varina police department to release the body camera footage immediately and institute a community oversight board that will hold officers accountable for incidents of unnecessary policing.

“You cannot ask us to trust the police department to police themselves if we cannot trust them,” said Emancipate NC executive director Dawn Blagrove. “We’ve talked enough. Now it’s time for the Fuquay-Varina Police Department and its chief to put some action behind their sentiments.”

Cops are afforded a nearly unlimited amount of discretion on the job, Blagrove said. The officer could have easily used his discretion to afford Malcolm the same rights as the white teenager present. That lack of discretion—which Blagrove characterized as a lack of heart—is unacceptable, she said.

Because North Carolina’s public records laws prohibit the release of police disciplinary records, it is unclear what, if anything, will happen to the arresting officer involved.

For Malcolm, the incident, which occurred in front of his neighbors in broad daylight, was humiliating.

“It made me feel like a criminal, when I’ve never done anything illegal to be seen as a criminal,” Malcolm said.

The trauma will stay with the family moving forward, his mother said.

“You stole his voice, because you viewed his words as him running his mouth,” Ty said. “This morning, we don’t come to steal anything from you. We first come to give you forgiveness and to publicly say you are forgiven. We also come today to say that while your actions were for 34 minutes, your impact is for a lifetime.”

Her voice cracked and her eyes welled with tears as she continued.

“I come to take back the power that was taken from my son that day and be a voice for the mothers and fathers that felt like my son when he said to me, ‘Mom, there was nothing else that I could do.’”

Follow Interim Managing Editor Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to ltauss@indyweek.com

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