Tatyana Hargrove is scarred, angry and hobbling on crutches.
Hargrove, 19, from Bakersfield, California, said she was harassed by police at gunpoint, punched in the face by cops and bitten by a snarling police dog in an odd case of mistaken identity: Police said they were looking for a large, bald man who was suspected of attacking people with a machete and that Hargrove fit the description.
But Hargrove is just 5 feet 2 inches; she is not bald – and she’s not a man.
So why the confusion?
“I turned around and there were three cop cars and one of the officers already had a gun drawn at me,” Hargrove said. “He then threw me onto the ground and then that’s when the K-9 came and started eating at my leg.”
Hargrove’s abuse by police conjures images of police dogs attacking Black citizens in Birmingham, Alabama during a peaceful Civil Rights demonstration in 1963. Bull Connor, Birmingham’s former Commissioner of Public Safety, made the hateful decision to unleash police dogs on innocent black people, including children.
And today, 54 years later, history is repeating itself.
Hargrove told the NAACP that police officers put a knee in her back and head during the arrest before turning a police dog loose on her.
“I told him ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and then I started yelling out ‘somebody help, somebody help me, they’re gonna kill me,’” she said.
Moore said he thought Hargrove was a machete-carrying suspect who was bald, stands 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. Hargrove is 5 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. And she has a full head of hair – looking nothing remotely like the bald suspect cops were searching for.
Police searched Hargrove’s backpack and, not surprisingly, they did not find a machete. Turns out, Douglas Washington, 24, the actual suspect, was arrested the next day.
But get this: Hargrove was arrested on suspicion of resisting an officer and assault on a peace officer, according to police. She was detained by police for nine hours and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
A group of protesters rallied in Bakersfield last week demanding, correctly, that charges be dropped against Hargrove.
“We’re talking about a young woman they are trying to deem a criminal who was really a victim,” NAACP Bakersfield Chapter President Patrick Jackson said at the rally.
Race, no doubt, played a role in Hargrove’s incident. According to media accounts, the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP posted Hargrove’s account on its Facebook page and said the video has been viewed more than five million times. Hargrove is on crutches in the video and she is shown with scratches, bites, and bruises and scrapes on her face and body.
Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, said in a police report that he didn’t know Hargrove was a woman until after she was handcuffed.
Really? That’s very hard to imagine.
“She appeared to be a male and matched the description of the suspect that had brandished the machete and was also within the same complex the suspect had fled to,” Moore wrote in his report. He thought she had a weapon in her bag.
According to the report, when Hargrove told officers her name is Tatyana, Moore said: “Don’t lie to me, that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?”
Hargrove responded, “I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one.”
“This was when I first discovered she was a female,” Moore wrote in his report.
Are we to believe that tiny Hargrove – who was mistaken for a man — could have overpowered Moore? And how could Moore think this petite teen was a large bald man?
Hargrove’s mother, Alecia Reece, said the officers who arrested her daughter should be put in jail.
“I am so proud of my daughter for standing up. I am so proud of her for telling her story because a 19-year-old girl, to come up here and stand against the Bakersfield Police Department — this is a strong woman that I raised,” Reece told the crowd.
Hargrove was taken to a local hospital, treated and released. Charges against Hargrove should be dropped – and she should receive a public apology from the Bakersfield Police Department.
And Moore should be investigated – and fired. He has no place working as a police officer if he can’t differentiate between a large man and a small woman. A police officer is hired to serve and protect – and Moore did neither.
Forget all the cultural sensitivity workshops, Moore should be forced to hand over his gun and badge immediately and pursue another line of work.
What do you think?
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