(CBS News)- The Baltimore mom heralded for smacking her 16-year-old son at the Monday riots says she doesn’t feel like a hero. In a CBS News exclusive, Toya Graham explained why she angrily confronted her son in an incident captured on a video that went viral.
“To see my son come across the street with a rock in his hand, I think at that point, I just lost it,” Toya Graham said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”
The single mother of six was unofficially dubbed “mom of the year” by many on social media, and publications like the New York Post displayed her image on the cover with the headline, “Forget the National Guard… Send in the Moms.”
“I was pretty much just telling him, ‘How dare you do this,'” Graham said.
When she first saw the video of herself, she thought, “‘Oh my god, my pastor is going to have a fit.’ That’s it.”
At the end of the day, her intention was to bring her son to safety.
“He has been in trouble before, and he knows right from wrong. He’s just like the other teenagers that doesn’t have the perfect relationship with the police officers in Baltimore City, but you will not be throwing rocks and stones at police officers,” Graham said. “At some point, who’s to say that they don’t have to come and protect me from something, you know? And they might not want to knowing that you’re bringing harm to them. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and at the end of the day I just wanted to make sure I had gotten my son home.”
Protests began in Baltimore after the unexplained death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. He died April 19 after sustaining severe spinal injuries while in police custody. While demonstrations have been largely peaceful, chaos erupted Monday and escalated into riots.
“At some point I understand the frustration that our community is having. We haven’t received any information on what happened to this young guy,” Graham said. “You know, by looking at it from the news point of view, it looks like he was harmed. And if he hadn’t been harmed, then as people of Baltimore City, you know, we feel as though we have the right to know what happened to him.”
In her first interview with CBS News, Graham said, “That’s my only son and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray.”
Graham, who said she and her community “can’t talk to the police,” expressed her frustration in seeing Gray being dragged into a police vehicle, end up in a coma and then lose his life — all without an explanation from officials.
“As a mother, I mean, that is just devastating to see and not have any answers,” Graham said.