Police Beat Black Teenager After Mistaking Her for a Larger Bald Black Male Suspect
A black teenager was confronted by police, punched by an officer and bitten by an officer’s K-9 dog after the officers mistakenly identified her for a larger bald, black man suspected of threatening people nearby with a machete.
The incident took place June 18, but 19-year-old Tatyana Hargrove’s altercation with Bakersfield, Calif. police officers has been gaining traction this week after the Bakersfield NAACP chapter posted a video on its Facebook page of Hargrove describing the event. In the video, which has more than 4 million views to date, Hargrove is standing on crutches and displays visible scratches and bruises.
Hargrove explained that she was walking home from a local store when she was stopped by police while taking a water bottle out of her bag. She said three police cruisers were positioned behind her, and that one of the officers already had his gun drawn when he stepped out of the vehicle.
She said the officers demanded that she hand over her backpack, prompting Hargrove to ask if they had a warrant. An officer then pointed to a K-9 dog, which frightened Hargrove into handing over her backpack. Hargrove said an officer grabbed her by the wrist, then by the neck, punched her and proceeded to throw her to the ground. At that point the K-9 dog started “eating at her leg,” she claimed.
One of the officers, identified as G. Vasquez, put one knee into Hargrove’s back and another into her head while she was on the ground.
“I told him, 'I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,'" Hargrove recounted in the video. “'Somebody help me, somebody help me. They’re going to kill me.'"
The officer pulled Hargrove up from the ground and proceeded to arrest her, securing her hands and then her ankles.
Hargrove was ultimately arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer. According to Bakersfield.com, "the case has been forwarded to the Kern County District Attorney’s office for review." The department determined that the use of force was appropriate, and no internal investigation into the incident has been opened so far.
In a BPD report obtained by the Californian, arresting officer Christopher Moore said Hargrove “appeared to be a male” and had matched the description of a suspect in possession of a machete who had been in the same area as Hargrove. The suspect the BPD was looking for was a 25- to 30-year-old bald man who was about 5-foot-10 and weighed 170 pounds, and was carrying a backpack.
In contrast, Hargrove is 19 years old, 5-foot-2 and 115 pounds.
Moore mentioned in his police report that he did not know Hargrove was a woman until she told him her name was Tatyana.
“Don’t lie to me, that’s a girl’s name,” Moore said. “What is your name?”
“I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one,” Hargrove told him.
Moore also noted that when he took Hargrove to a medical center, several nurses mistook Hargrove for a man.
Moore’s description of the incident differs from Hargrove’s, in that he accused Hargrove of ignoring the officers’ commands and attempting to flee the scene. As Vasquez was trying to handcuff Hargrove, Moore said she spun around and knocked him to the ground. It was then that Vasquez punched her in the mouth. At that point, Moore said he still suspected that there was a machete in Hargrove’s backpack, leading him to release the police dog.
Police did end up arresting the suspect, 24-year-old Douglas Washington, the next day. He currently remains in jail.
The incident comes six months after two black teens had a similar altercation with the Bakersfield Police Department. The Bakersfield NAACP chapter released a video in January recounting the experiences of Timothy Grismore and Xavier Hines, two black college students who claimed they were stopped, beaten and arrested by police late one night after stopping at Taco Bell. A civil suit has been filed on their behalf against the police department.