A black 19-year-old woman says she was confronted by police at gunpoint, punched in the mouth and bitten by a police dog after Bakersfield, Calif., police apparently mistook her for a much larger, bald black man who was suspected of threatening people with a machete at a nearby grocery store.
According to the Bakersfield Californian, Tatyana Hargrove’s story is picking up more and more attention since the NAACP in Bakersfield posted a video to its Facebook page of her sharing her story. That video, in which Hargrove insists that race played a role in the brutal encounter, has gotten 3.8 million views so far.
In the video, the 19-year-old is holding crutches and close-ups are shown of the scratches, bites and other bruises on her body and face that she suffered during the June 18 encounter with Bakersfield police.
Hargrove explained in the video that she had ridden her bicycle to a local store to buy a Father’s Day gift before realizing the establishment was closed. On her way back home, she stopped to get a drink of water out of her backpack. That’s when she noticed three police cars behind her. The teen said that one of the officers already had his gun drawn by the time he got out of his patrol car.
The teen said that officers demanded to see her backpack, but she asked them for a warrant. When officers pointed out their K9 dog to her, Hargrove said she got scared and gave them her backpack, but that at that point the officer grabbed her by the wrist and neck and punched her and threw her on the ground. At that point, she said, the K9 dog bit her.
Hargrove says that one officer put his knee in her back and another knee on her head.
“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.
Ultimately, the teen was arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer.
Bakersfield police say they mistook the 5-foot-2, 115-pound Hargrove, age 19, for a suspect who was described as being a 25- to 30-year-old bald man with a goatee, who stands at around 5 foot 10 and weighs 170 pounds.
Hargrove, arresting Officer Christopher Moore wrote in a report, “appeared to be a male and matched the description of the suspect that had brandished a machete and was also within the same complex the suspect had fled to.”
Moore accused Hargrove of ignoring police commands and putting her feet on her bike pedals, appearing as if “she was going to flee.”
At no point does the report say that Hargrove actually left the scene.
Moore said that as another officer, identified as G. Vasquez, was handcuffing the teen, she spun her left shoulder into him, knocking Vasquez off balance and taking him to the ground. Hargrove, police say, fell on top of Vasquez and then spun around into a “mounting position.” That was when Vasquez punched her in the mouth, according to the report.
Moore said at that point he realized Hargrove was within reach of her backpack, which Moore still apparently suspected contained a machete, causing him to release his K9.
Moore said that he didn’t realize Hargrove was a woman until she told him her first name, “Tatyana.”
“Don’t lie to me; that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?” Moore asked.
“I’m a girl. I just don’t dress like one,” she said.
The actual suspect police were looking for, 24-year-old Douglas Washington, was arrested the next day and remains in jail.
Read more at the Bakersfield Californian.