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Cops pepper-spray black teen who entered foster parents' home

DeShawn Currie, 18, was mistaken for a burglar and pepper-sprayed in the face by police after entering his white foster parents' home in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.
A canister of pepper spray.
A canister of pepper spray.

A black teen mistaken for a burglar was pepper-sprayed in the face by Fuquay-Varina, N.C. police after entering his white foster parents' house, television station WTVD reported Wednesday.

DeShawn Currie, 18, had just returned home from school Monday afternoon when a neighbor spotted him entering the house and alerted law enforcement to a potential break-in. Three officers soon arrived and ordered Currie to put his hands on the door, according to his account.

"I was like, 'For what? This is my house,'" Currie said. "I was like, 'Why are ya'll in here?'" 

"I had moved into my room, and I’m feeling like I’m loved. And then … they come in and they just profile me and say that I’m not who I am."'

Currie, who has been fostered by Ricky and Stacy Tyler for about a year, told WTVD that he became angry when the responding officers questioned his story by pointing to pictures of the Tyler's three white children on the mantle. They pepper-sprayed the teen when he became belligerent and did not follow their instructions, Fuquay-Varina police alleged in a statement Monday. 

Stacy Tyler, the teen's foster mother, returned home to find Currie being treated by EMS workers in the driveway.

The Tylers had only recently moved to the Raleigh, North Carolina, suburb with Currie and their three younger children, and were working to establish a comfortable new life with their foster son.  "Everything that we've worked so hard for in the past years was stripped away yesterday in just a matter of moments," Ricky Tyler told WTVD.

"I had moved into my room, and I'm feeling like I'm loved," Currie said. "And then when they come in and they just profile me and say that I'm not who I am. And that I do not stay here because there was white kids on the wall, that really made me mad."

The incident is the latest in a string of altercations between police and black men, many apparently racially-motivated, that have drawn national attention.

In Ferguson, Missouri, unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a local cop, provoking weeks of protests in the St. Louis suburb. Witnesses say Brown had his arms raised in surrender when he was killed, while police allege he had tried to grab the officer's gun and was moving aggressively when he was killed.

Brown's death has brought increased attention to a number of other cases of police violence, including Darrien Hunt, a 22-year-old who was killed by Utah police after allegedly brandishing a toy sword; John Crawford, also 22, who was shot and killed by police inside a Wal-Mart after picking a toy gun off the shelf; and Eric Garner, a Staten Island man selling illegal cigarettes who died after a police officer put him in a chokehold. Garner's family filed notice of a $75 million lawsuit on Wednesday.

Related: Family sues Hammond police over traffic stop violence

Also on Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported that the Brooklyn District Attorney is looking into allegations that an NYPD officer wrongfully took $1,300 from Lamard Joye, a black man, during a stop-and-frisk, then pepper-sprayed him and his sister Lateefah when they protested. The two were targeted by the cop, according to their lawyer, Robert Marinelli, after they called out to officers manhandling a nearby man.

Lamard is a construction worker, his lawyer said, and had withdrawn the money from a bank in anticipation of his 35th birthday -- the same day he was stopped-and-frisked -- in order to go out in the city with his wife. 

The NYPD did not provide the Daily News with comment on the altercation, which was captured by a cell phone video now in the hands of prosecutors and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau.