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Police union used photo of Black toddler as "propaganda" after Philadelphia cops assaulted his mother, lawyer says

Philadelphia officials on 2 nights of unrest
Philadelphia officials impose curfew after two nights of unrest over police shooting 02:30

The nation's largest police union posted and then deleted a photo on Facebook purporting to show a Philadelphia police officer comforting a "lost" Black toddler during a night of protests over the killing of Walter Wallace Jr..  But an attorney representing the 2-year-old boy and his 28-year-old mother, Rickia Young, told CBS News on Friday that the post was "propaganda." 

The National Fraternal Order of Police claimed in a post that the child was "wandering" barefoot during unrest in the city. "This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness<" the post read. "The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child. "

The union tweeted out a statement on Friday saying they took the post down after learning there were "conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer." 

A video of the incident appears to show the boy and his mother being pulled from their vehicle and being separated. The clip then appears to show the woman being assaulted by officers.

Attorneys Riley H. Ross III and Thomas O. Fitzpatrick, who are representing Young in a civil case, both called out the union. Ross tweeted the photo is "a lie." 

"The only thing that could make what they did out there on that night any more reprehensible than what it already was, was how they followed it up by attempting to use it as some type of propaganda and spin it in through some type of positive thing for for the police department," Fitzpatrick told CBS News. 

A short clip taken from a nearby building showed officers swarming an SUV and hitting it with weapons. The video shows officers dragging the driver, who Fitzpatrick identified as Young, out of the vehicle and beating her. The boy is also seen carried out of the vehicle. (Warning: The video below may be difficult for some viewers to watch.)

Fitzpatrick told CBS News on Friday that Young was "simply trying to make a U-turn."

"She just turned into try to get away from the protesters and the police in that area," he said. "She wasn't a part of the protest."

Young was detained and released without being charged, Fitzpatrick told CBS News. After several hours, she reunited with her son. 

Both of them suffered physical injuries as a result of the incident, according to Fitzpatrick. Young is still being evaluated by doctors, but Fitzpatrick said the "emotional trauma of it all" would be "a much longer process." 

Fitzpatrick said the boy suffered a "traumatic head injury" and his hearing aids were left in the SUV, which is being held by police. 

Young's nephew was also in the SUV, but Fitzpatrick would not comment on his condition. 

The Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement to CBS News that the incident is under investigation by the Internal Affairs Unit. 

Protests have continued in Philadelphia over the death of Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man who was killed after authorities said he ignored orders to drop a knife. Wallace's family said they called an ambulance to get him help during a mental health crisis and did not ask for police.

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