By ED RUNYAN
Police are starting an internal investigation of a mother’s claim that her three young sons were traumatized at gunpoint by a patrol sergeant.
The mother of the boys — age 7, 9 and 10 — filed a complaint Monday with the Warren Police Department against the officer who ordered her sons to the ground in their backyard.
The episode occurred Friday as they returned home from school.
Carolyn Simmons said the boys had walked home from Lincoln “excited to start their weekend,” but Sgt. Jeff Hoolihan “ambushed” them, leaving them “crying hysterically with drool running down their mouth as they convulsed with fear.”
The officer was on patrol near the boys’ home on Sarkies Drive Northeast near the Lincoln K-8 school building.
He thought they might have committed a break-in, according to a transcript of communication between Hoolihan and his dispatcher. Hoolihan told the dispatcher he ordered the boys to the ground about 3:50 p.m., then said the boys reported that they live at that address.
About five minutes later, Hoolihan told the dispatcher to disregard the call, that the boys’ father, Anthony Simmons, had identified the boys as his.
Carolyn Simmons said she first realized something was wrong when she looked into the backyard, expecting to see her boys playing there, but instead saw them “laying face-down in the cold, wet soil of our lawn.”
When she asked Hoolihan what was going on, the officer answered that there had been a “string of burglaries in the area” and that “when the boy saw me, they took off running,” she said in her complaint.
The woman said she told the boys to get up off the ground and go in the house. The boys went in the house and hid under the covers of their bed, lights out, “confused and traumatized ... still wearing their mud-stained clothes,” she said.
Hoolihan never apologized for his actions, Carolyn Simmons said.
Sgt. Jeff Cole, police department internal-affairs officer, said he has been assigned to investigate, but he had not yet talked to Hoolihan and had no other information.
Hoolihan did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Carolyn Simmons talked to the boys later and learned that they had cut through another child’s yard adjacent to their own yard on their way home from school, went to their own front door, then to their own locked rear door, then back to their friend’s home to try to use the restroom, then back home when they got no answer at their friend’s house.
It was on their way home the second time when Hoolihan confronted them, Carolyn Simmons said, adding that the boys told her they never saw Hoolihan until he ordered them to the ground.
Hoolihan ordered one of the boys to remove the black bag he was carrying, the boy gave it to Hoolihan, and Hoolihan searched it.
Carolyn Simmons said her sons are the only black children in a neighborhood that has very few children in general and said that because of their race and age, “they have had many obstacles to endure while living here.”