Honestie Hodges, whose disturbing encounter with Grand Rapids police led to reform, was diagnosed with COVID on her 14th birthday
When Honestie Hodges was just 11 years old, she was handcuffed and detained by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while simply trying to leave her home with her mom. They were looking for one of Hodges’ aunts and brutalized her, a child, in the process. Three years later, Honestie has died from COVID-19 complications at just 14 years old.
She tested positive for the coronavirus on her birthday, Nov. 9, and was rushed to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital later that day, according to GoFundMe page set up by the girl’s grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer. Niemeyer posted an update Sunday to the fundraiser, writing, “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.”
A spokesperson for Spectrum Health System and Helen Devos Children’s Hospital told USA Today that Honestie’s condition was listed as critical on Sunday morning.
In December 2017, Grand Rapids police placed Honestie in handcuffs while conducting the search for her aunt, who was a suspect in a local stabbing. Honestie stepped out the back door of her home with her mother and another family member to go to the store when they were confronted by police officers with their guns drawn. Body camera footage showed Honestie crying and begging the police officer not to handcuff her.
Per the New York Times, one of the officers yelled at her to put her hands on top of her head, to which her mother responded, “She is 11 years old, sir!” Her mother was told to “stop yelling.”
During the incident, a second officer grabbed Honestie’s arms, pulled them behind her back and handcuffed her. Honestie shouted, “No, No, No!” pleading with the officers not to place the cuffs on her. The police didn’t remove the handcuffs for several minutes.
None of the officers involved faced any repercussions for their actions, but the department acknowledged that the officers had made a mistake in how they handled the child.
“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?” Honestie was quoted as saying at the time on a local Michigan news station.
In March 2018, the police department adopted a youth interaction policy called the “Honestie Policy,” which instructs officers on the proper way to interact with children at crime scenes.
After falling ill and testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 9, Honestie was sent home from the hospital. According to her grandmother’s statement on the GoFundMe page, she was rushed back to the hospital via ambulance and was immediately moved to the ICU for an iron transfusion and was put on a ventilator. Her condition never improved, and she died on Nov. 22.
While COVID-19 deaths among children are rare, Hispanic and Black children are more likely than white children to be hospitalized or admitted to the ICU, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Honestie’s grandma told WOOD-TV that prior to contracting COVID-19, her granddaughter had no underlying conditions or health issues whatsoever. Her heartbreaking words are almost too much to bear, but we owe it to Honestie and all children disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to hear them, feel them, and keep them in mind as we protect one another from this vicious virus:
“She could have been the vice president one day, or maybe the president,” Niemeyer said. “The world was open to her.”
You can donate to the GoFundMe for her family here. Her mother had to stop working to take care of her daughter and other children.