BAKERSFIELD, California — A black teenager says that police officers beat her and allowed a police dog to attack her last month — all because they mistook her for an adult male suspect.
In a five-minute Facebook video posted Monday by the Bakersfield, California, chapter of the NAACP, Tatyana Hargrove claims that police assaulted her without provocation and arrested her on June 18. She has been charged with resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer.
The police report documenting Hargrove’s arrest says that officers stopped her because “she appeared to be a male and matched the description” of a suspect who had brandished a machete at the grocery store earlier that day, and because she was “within the same complex the suspect had fled to.”
Officers claimed at the time that the 19-year-old got on top of one of the officers in a scuffle, and that they used force and employed the police dog to prevent her from harming him.
Hargrove has not made any public statements aside from the video, and her father told CNN she is not ready to speak to the media. She would not consent to an interview with CNN.
After the release of the video telling the teen’s side of the story, the department is promising an investigation.
In the police report, the suspect police were seeking is described as a 5′ 10″-6’0″ tall, 160-170 pound black male in his 20s or 30s with a shaved head and goatee, who is “transient in appearance.”
Hargrove’s parents say in the video that they can’t believe police confused their daughter for the suspect, given how dramatically she differs from that description. The police report notes Hargrove is 5′ 2″ and weighs 120 pounds.
Link In the video, Hargrove, standing on crutches, says she was riding her bike home in 103-degree heat on June 18 and stopped at a street corner to take a drink of water. When she turned around, she says, “there were three cop cars, and one of the officers already had a gun drawn at me.”
The officers asked her if she had been in a nearby grocery store and demanded she give them her backpack, Hargrove says in the video. After she handed over the backpack, one officer began to beat her and set a police dog on her, she says.
“He grabbed me by my wrist like this, and then he grabbed me by my neck, punched me, and then threw me on the ground,” Hargrove says. “And then that’s when the K9 came and started eating at my leg.”
She says that one officer put his knee in her back. “I told him I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “Then he put his other knee in my head, and then I told him, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.'”
She yelled for help, Hargrove says, and an officer took her and put her in the back of a squad car. While she was entering the car, she says she could hear someone say “that’s not the guy, that’s not the guy.”
In the police report, officers claimed that Hargrove resisted when they stopped her, fell on top of one of them and turned over “in a mounting position.” The officer “punched Hargrove one time in the mouth in an attempt to force her off of him,” the report says, but she “quickly maneuvered her body to get back on top of him,” after which a second officer commanded the police dog “to engage Hargrove.”
‘In no way a race thing’
Sergeant Ryan Kroeker, public information officer for the Bakersfield Police Department, said that police only learned about Hargrove’s allegations through the Facebook video, and that no official complaint had been filed with the police department. Police Chief Lyle Martin announced that an internal investigation would be conducted in response to the video.
“Chief Martin is very interested in strengthening the relationship between the police department and the community,” Kroeker said. “We want to be open and transparent.”
Bakersfield Police Officer’s Association President Ramon Chavez defended the officers’ actions, saying that it’s their job to detain and question people who fit the description of a wanted individual.
“I can say for a fact that this was not racially motivated,” he said. “Our officers are well-trained and in no way was this a race thing,” he said.
‘She is a victim, not a criminal’
The NAACP in Bakersfield said that Hargrove’s family contacted them immediately after the incident. They took some time to release the video because they wanted to conduct their own investigation into what happened, said Patrick Jackson, president of the NAACP Bakersfield Chapter, whom the family has authorized to speak on their behalf.
The family went to the NAACP instead of reporting the incident to police because they felt that nothing would be done, Jackson said. “Our focus is for the charges against Tatyana to be dropped,” he said. “In the past, we have not seen the police department do right by their own internal investigations, and so why waste our time and resources with them? We know we would get a better response by going public first.”
The group has started a petition calling for the charges to be dropped and for the officers involved to be disciplined. The NAACP also set up a GoFundMe page to help Hargrove’s family pay for medical expenses.
“She is a victim, not a criminal,” Jackson said. “We also want an oversight community committee, and body cameras on officers.”
Hargrove’s father told CNN that Tatyana is still shaken from the encounter. “This was a very painful experience and it is a long road to recovery,” Reece said. “She doesn’t want to be left alone or even leave the house. She was just a happy, energetic, full-of-life girl who worked, but now she is at home and doesn’t want to go anywhere.”
The Bakersfield Police Department was already under investigation for other potential civil rights violations by the California Department of Justice. On December of 2016, the attorney general launched an investigation into the police department’s alleged use of excessive force and other serious misconduct.
That investigation is ongoing, the California Department of Justice said in a statement.