West Midlands Police raised some eyebrows and caused a bit of a furore on social media after proudly announcing they had arrested the culprit behind the sending of racist threats and images invoking the terrifying Ku Klux Klan to footballer Wilfried Zaha.
Why the stir instead of the celebrations? Simply because the supposed perpetrator of the crime they had arrested was a 12-year old boy!
Prior to a Sunday match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, Zaha tweeted out the hateful messages he received overnight.
“Woke up to this today,” Zaha had posted. Screenshots of the messages included a threat to invade the athlete’s house “dressed as a ghost” if he scored in his upcoming match.
Zaha also added a screenshot of the account that had sent the messages his way, with the extreme nature of the messages kicking off a campaign of solidarity backing Zaha, and calls for immediate arrest and prosecution of the offender.
“This is abhorrent, unacceptable and criminal. There can be no room for racism of any kind in football or a civil society,” Claudia Webbe, the Labor Member of Parliament for Leicester East, tweeted.
Zaha also received support from the Premier League with Roy Hodgson, the manager of the Crystal Palace, praising him for making the messages public:
“I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don’t think it is something he should keep quiet about,” he said. “There is literally no excuse; there is no excuse at all.”
Authorities had quickly pounced on the case in full force – and within hours, an arrest was made.
“We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy,” West Midlands Police announced.
The fact that police resources went into swiftly arresting a 12-year-old has, however, led some to question the priorities of West Midlands Police.
“Maybe talk to his parents?” suggested Huffington Post contributor Yashar Ali. “Arresting a 12-year-old?!”
“Imagine boasting about arresting a 12 year old,” Breitbart News investigative journalist Allum Bokhari tweeted in reaction to the arrest announcement.
The spurious arrest has evoked mixed responses from the public. While many echoed similar sentiments, questioning what effect digital messages from a teenager to a grown man could actually have, some have still argued that the incident could at least teach the boy a lesson that his family and society appear to have failed to pass on to him.
As for the West Midlands police, it’s up to you to decide whether they should be given a deserving pat on their backs!