Nine-year-old Jeremiah Harvey was thrust into a media storm after being falsely accused of sexual assault by a woman nicknamed “Cornerstore Caroline” on Oct. 10. That’s when the boy, who is black, became the subject of an alleged 911 call placed by 53-year-old Teresa Klein, who is white and who accused him of grabbing her behind in a Brooklyn bodega. They’ve since been seen by thousands in a video of the incident that went viral.
Now, Jeremiah and his mother, Someko Bellille, are speaking out about the event and how it is just the latest example of racial profiling.
In a Good Morning America interview aired on Friday, Jeremiah and Bellille took time to reflect on the incident, and it was evident that the little boy was having a hard time moving beyond it.
“It’s still hard because I have this lately on my mind, like I can’t think nothing but this,” Jeremiah said. “I felt humiliated.”
His mother elaborated on her son’s pain, saying that it was about more than simple embarrassment. Instead, she said, her son felt extreme fear for both himself and his family.
“It was devastating for him, because even after walking away, he was pointing to, you know, patrol cars on Flatbush Avenue and saying, ‘Mommy, are they here to take you away from us?'” Bellille recalled, before explaining what has been the most difficult part of the incident for her. “To be having a conversation with your son about sexual assault at the age of 9. I never thought I would be having this conversation with my son at all.”
However, Bellille ultimately expressed hope that Jeremiah would use the experience for good.
“That fear that was placed in your heart, Jeremiah, is going to be replaced with something great,” she said to him. “You are going to be an example for other children.”
Klein revisited the bodega days after she accused the child of sexual assault in order to watch surveillance footage from that day. The video showed that it was evident that Jeremiah had not touched Klein’s behind — instead, it was his backpack that had accidentally brushed against her. She reluctantly apologized, saying, “Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry.”
On Tuesday, Jeremiah attended a community meeting outside of the bodega during which he said that he did not forgive Klein. “She needs help,” he said. But on Friday, it seemed as though the boy had changed his mind.
“Yes,” he said when asked if he accepts Klein’s apology. “Yes, I do. Friendship is the key.”
For his mother, however, it’s easier to admit that moving forward will still be tough.
“This is going to take some time,” Bellille said. “It’s going to take a lot of healing.”
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