Baltimore teen smacked by mom at riot says he gets it: ‘It was World War III’ after mom saw me

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BALTIMORE (CNN) — Teenager Michael Singleton, whose smackdown by his mother at the Baltimore riots was captured on camera and seen around the world, said Wednesday he understands his mother was trying to keep him out of trouble.

The 16-year-old boy said he understood that his mother was there looking out for him.

“She didn’t want me to get in trouble (with the) law. She didn’t want me to be like another Freddie Gray,” Michael said, referring to the 25-year-old man who died of a severe spinal injury after being arrested by Baltimore police.

Gray’s death has sparked daily protests over police brutality. There have also been riots and looting that prompted the city to put a curfew into effect.

The video of Toya Graham yanking her son Michael and slapping him with a right hand as CNN affiliate WMAR recorded has led to the Internet calling Graham #motheroftheyear.

Many people have praised the unemployed, single mother of six for going to the Mondawmin Mall and getting her son away from the escalating violence.

Graham told Cooper that she saw her son with a brick in his hand, and she lost control of her emotions and told him to drop it.

“I did (get emotional). You know, once he threw that rock down I said, ‘You weren’t brought up like this,’ ” Graham said.

He’s not a perfect child, but he’s also not a thug, she said.

Graham said her son told her the night before the violence at the mall that something was up. She told him then and the next morning not to go. He swore to her he wouldn’t.

Her motherly sense kicked in when she heard school had closed early and the mall was shutting down, too.

She went to the mall and focused on the teens who were tossing rocks and bricks. There he was, in sweatpants she recognized. They made eye contact.

He had a brick in his hand, and that set her off.

“I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to do some harm to the police officers,” she said.

She yelled at him to put the brick down.

Singleton said he had seen her, but it didn’t make sense that his mother would be there. But when he heard her voice, he realized it really was his mom — and he was in big trouble.

“I was just like ‘Oh man…'” Michael said of spotting his mother.

Then the camera captured her memorable smackdown.

“It was just World War III from right there,” he said, showing some humor about the incident.

Graham noticed the TV crew but didn’t think anything of it. And she didn’t care.

“I wasn’t there to be recorded. I was there to get my child,” she said.

Tough love

Tameka Brown, one of Graham’s five daughters, told CNN on Tuesday it wasn’t that hard for her mom to spot her 16-year-old half-brother.

“She knows her son and picked him out. Even with the mask on, she knew,” Brown said.

Graham said she tries to steer her son away from potential trouble and troublemakers.

“As long as I have breath in my body I will always try to do right by Michael and show him what’s going on out in society doesn’t have to be you,” she told CNN.

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12 comments

  • e ibarra

    Hmm……and after seeing herself in the video, from where does she think her son learned the violence? Children learn what they live.

    • Carmen Ortiz

      I would have done the same thing because she probaly saved her sons life or someone else’s sons life! She was probably so scared FOR him that that was her reaction. I dont judge her because I dont know her but maybe if more were out there getting their sons all the damage that was done wouldnt have been!

      • dennisclatham

        Probably saved her son’s life ? Please – you don’t know that – that’s just an excuse people use to glorify beating – you make up excuses for this kind of behavior – if she was a GREAT MOTHER ? he wouldn’t have been there in the first place…..

    • Brad F

      So every one of the rioter, looters and thugs out there had a parent who taught them violence? Your way of thinking is one of the reasons there are so many who don’t feel they don’t have to control their emotions. This country would be a much better place with more parents like Tameka Brown.

  • Karen Pruett

    I’m glad this lady had the guts to jump in and take her loved one out of that mess. Maybe she got a little too emotional, maybe he is a lot embarrassed, but one day he will realize his mom was saving his life.

  • Meta Martinez

    Good for you mom. I would have done the same. There is enough violence and I admire your parenting skills. Sometimes talking doesn’t help, and what you did, was definitely the right thing to do. Your son should be thanking God that you love him enough to stop him from making the worst mistake of his life.

  • GL

    I still admire this Momma Bear. And each new interview, my respect grows. She was protecting her son from some poor decision making. He got caught up (understandably) but placed himself in danger. She reacted with consequences and apparently, he knew he was in deep when he saw her see him. I betting he makes a better decision next time. He sounds like he’s s good kid…I hope he’s got some good teachers/mentors to help guide him as his Mom is apparently doing well at home. I think this turned out well.

  • Donna Strom

    Our world needs more Momma’s and son relationships like these two..She should receive the outstanding Momma award for 2015. Wonder how this would have played out if this same Momma, after witnessed her son behave in an unlawful manner, during normal times, and disciplined her son the same way .. Would we be saying super mom or child abuse ??

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