FORT WORTH -- A couple was heading to the grocery store with their four children when a police car pulled in front of them and officers jumped out, guns drawn, and began yelling at them.
Roll down your windows, the officers ordered. The parents yelled back that their windows didn't work. The children were crying uncontrollably when the officers realized that they had stopped the wrong car.
"Then the two officers jumped in their car and drove off," said Kristiana Drakeford, who was driving her husband and children to a grocery store in the 3800 block of Altamesa Boulevard.
The family was terrified, she said, and the couple want Fort Worth police to investigate how the stop was handled.
Police were looking for four men who robbed workers Friday outside an apartment less than two miles away. The men, one of whom displayed a semiautomatic handgun during the robbery, were in a white Ford Crown Victoria with no wheel coverings and tinted windows, according to the police report.
The couple's car -- a white 2004 Crown Victoria with tinted windows -- is similar, police said.
A Fort Worth police spokeswoman said that approaching a vehicle with guns drawn is standard procedure for a felony traffic stop.
"They were doing what they were trained to do," spokeswoman Sharron Neal said.
Such traffic stops are often fraught with questions and confusion, said Phillip Lyons, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University.
A felony stop with an armed-robbery suspect causes officers to use the highest level of safety, Lyons said. His advice for those being stopped is to comply with officer commands and communicate.
"They don't know what they are dealing with in a traffic stop," Lyons said. "Maybe the children are hostages. Maybe the car has been hijacked. It's not always evident that this is just a family going about their daily business."
Sean Drakeford, the father, said he is worried that his children will never again believe that police are their friends.
"My son saw the sergeant standing next to me and regarded him as a threat," he said.
In that situation, adults should explain that the police acted the way that they did because they were trying to catch some bad guys and that "we are not the bad guys," child psychologist David Welsh said.
"Don't minimize their experience but don't amplify it either," Welsh said. "It's remarkable how resilient kids can be and how they can experience trauma in their lives and come back."