In 2017, 11-year-old Honestie Hodges made national headlines after a horrific confrontation with Grand Rapids, Mich., police, in which they handcuffed the little girl at gunpoint at her home. The incident led to a new policy dictating how the department would interact with minors.
A little less than three years later, Honestie has died from the coronavirus, her family says. She was just 14 years old.
According to the New York Times, Honestie died this past Sunday after falling ill on her birthday on Nov. 9. After the teenager came down with severe stomach pains, she was taken to the hospital, where she tested positive for the novel coronavirus. She was sent home for several hours but returned to the hospital’s intensive care unit later that night as her condition worsened.
Honestie went through a series of iron and blood transfusions before being put on a ventilator on Nov. 14. She never recovered.
Local NAACP leaders recently drew attention to her death in a plea for the public to take the risks of COVID-19 seriously, as cases spike nationwide and the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, reports MLive.com.
“All of the folks who showed up and expressed interest when Honestie was held at gunpoint, this is an opportunity to really honor her life fully, honor her life by doing what is necessary, what is needed, and that is limit your movement, limit your movement,” Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids branch of the NAACP branch, said on Tuesday. “We have to.”
While children have been less susceptible to the worst symptoms of COVID-19, they are by no means immune. Recent studies have shown that Latinx, Native and Black children, much like the adults in their communities, are at higher risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention found that between Feb 12 and July 31, Latinx, Native and Black children comprised 78 percent of all recorded deaths of juveniles.
“Folks, we have to take this extremely, extremely serious,” Jackson continued. “We have to take this personal. This is personal to us, more now-so than ever, because we lost one of our own: a 14-year-old young princess who had an incredible and remarkable life ahead of her.”
At a young age, and after being subjected to a traumatizing ordeal, Honestie had already been a voice for change. She was handcuffed by Grand Rapids police officers on Dec. 17 as law enforcement was investigating an incident involving her aunt, who is white.
Despite the fact that Honestie’s mother, Whitney, pleaded with the cops not to handcuff her 11-year-old daughter, the police officers arrested her anyway, along with two other women who had left the house.
Footage from the police visit to her home shows police ordering her to walk backward toward them with her hands in the air. As the cops placed cuffs on her hands, Honestie shouted, “No, No, No!” and pleaded with the officers not to arrest her. After being cuffed, police placed her in the back of a cruiser; the whole time, she can be heard screaming in fear.
Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky said shortly afterward that hearing her cries made him feel nauseated.
“They go to your heart,” Rahinsky said about her cries as the tape was played. “You hear the mother yelling from the steps, ‘That’s my child!’ That’s our community’s child. That’s someone who lives in Grand Rapids. That’s someone who should feel safe running to an officer.”
Though the department acknowledged that the officers shouldn’t have treated Honestie that way, no cops were fired as a result of the incident because they weren’t found to have explicitly violated any department policies. The furor over the interaction led to the Honestie Policy, adopted in March 2018, that advised police to consider the “most reasonable and least restrictive” options when interacting with juveniles.
Honestie herself spoke out about the incident, publicly questioning the role her race played in the cops’ decision-making.
“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 said at the time.
According to Times, which cited local news outlet WOOD-TV, Honestie and her family were negotiating with the city to settle a claim related to the incident.
Honestie’s family has created a GoFundMe page to collect donations for her mother, Whitney Hodges, who stopped working in order to care for Honestie and her four other children.
Alissa Niemeyer, Honestie’s grandmother, started the fundraising effort when Honestie was intubated on Nov. 14, and gave regular updates on Honestie’s condition. Eight days after starting the GoFundMe, Niemeyer delivered the news of her granddaughter’s death.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all of you that my beautiful, sassy, smart loving granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus.”