Honestie Hodges, whose police encounter at 11 went viral, dies of COVID-19

Honestie Hodges, whose police encounter at 11 went viral, dies of COVID-19
© GoFundMe

Honestie Hodges, whose encounter with police in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2017 went viral and sparked national outrage, died Sunday due to complications from COVID-19.

She was 14. 

Honestie’s grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer, shared news of her passing on a GoFundMe page that had been created to support Honestie’s mother and her four other children while Honestie was in the hospital. 

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“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,” Niemeyer wrote of Honestie on Sunday. 

According to The New York Times, Honestie had begun experiencing severe stomach pains on Nov. 9 — her 14th birthday. 

That evening, Honestie was taken to the intensive care unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Honestie received iron and blood transfusions over the next few days, and was eventually placed on a ventilator on Nov. 14. 

Niemeyer told local NBC affiliate station WOOD-TV that before Honestie had contracted COVID-19, she was “healthy” and “happy,” with no underlying health problems.

Honestie gained widespread attention after a Dec. 6, 2017, incident in which Honestie was exiting the back door of her home with her mother and another family member when they were confronted by police. 

“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!”

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“Stop yelling!” the officer responded, according to footage from an officer’s body camera. 

The footage then showed the officer ordering Honestie to walk backward toward him with her hands up. 

A second officer pulled Honestie’s arms behind her back and handcuffed her, and Honestie shouted, “No, No, No!”

Police removed the handcuffs within minutes, and later claimed they had been looking for a 40-year-old woman in connection with a stabbing, according to the Times. 

Honestie, who was Black, told MLive.com at the time, “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?”

During a news conference, then-police chief David Rahinsky said “listening to the 11-year-old’s response makes my stomach turn; it makes me physically nauseous.” 

While none of the officers involved in the incident were disciplined, with Rahinsky saying at the time that they had not violated any official policies, the national outrage that followed prompted the police department to implement internal changes.  

In March 2018, the force established the “Honestie Policy,” in support of using the least restrictive methods possible when interacting with younger populations. 

Niemeyer told WOOD-TV that she hopes Honestie’s battle with COVID-19 serves as a warning on the reality of the pandemic. 

“We’ve got to take this seriously,” Niemeyer said. “I know there are people out there that just don’t want to take it seriously and they don’t want the government telling them what they can and can’t do. I do understand that, but at the end of the day this is real, real thing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while coronavirus deaths are especially scarce among children when compared to older populations, Hispanic and Black children have been more likely than their white peers to be hospitalized or admitted to an ICU.