19-Year-Old Calif. Woman, ‘Mistaken’ for Bald Black Man, Files Excessive-Force Claim Against City of Bakersfield

Tatyana Hargrove (NAACP Bakersfield via Facebook screenshot)

A Bakersfield, Calif., young woman, who said she was confronted by police at gunpoint after they somehow mistook her for a larger, bald black man suspected of threatening people with a machete at a nearby grocery store, has now filed a claim against the city, claiming that her civil rights were violated and that officers used excessive force when arresting her.

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“What happened to me was vicious,” Tatyana Hargrove, 19, said during a news conference in Bakersfield, the Los Angeles Times reports. “It changed me very bad. My friends tell me I am different. I can’t talk about the story without crying. I hope and pray this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

According to the report, the city has 45 days to respond to the claim before she can move forward with her lawsuit. However, Hargrove’s attorney, Neil Gehlawat, said that the force used on her was both unreasonable and excessive.


“We think that what happened to Tatyana is an injustice and it should have never happened,” Gehlawat said at a news conference.

Hargrove was arrested June 18 after Bakersfield police stopped her because somehow they apparently thought the slight young lady, standing 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing in at a whopping 115 pounds, matched the description of a 25- to 30-year-old bald man with a goatee who stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds.


During the stop, Hargrove said that one officer pointed a gun at her, his gun drawn by the time he got out of his car, while another pointed out their K-9 dog to her. She said that an officer grabbed her by the wrist and neck and punched her before throwing her to the ground. At that point, she was bitten by the K-9 dog.


She added 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.


Hargrove was ultimately arrested on suspicion of resisting an officer and assault on a peace officer, but then was never charged with a crime after Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green dismissed the case.

Officers refused to believe that Hargrove was a girl, even when she gave them her first name.


“‘Don’t lie to me; that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?’” Officer Christopher Moore asked, according to the claim.

“‘I’m a girl. I just don’t dress like one,’” Hargrove said she responded.

Hargrove was taken to the hospital after suffering puncture wounds from the dog bite, as well as cuts to her face, knee and thigh.


“At no point was Hargrove armed, and at no point did she pose any threat to the officers,” the claim indicates.

Hargrove’s lawyer, Gehlawat, said that Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin has since called to apologize for the incident, but that that does little to change what happened to Hargrove. Gehlawat said he is hoping that the department will implement better training for officers, while Hargrove is just trying to piece her life back together.


“I think what’s troubling here is that there is this inclination to use force first,” Gehlawat said. “If they would have just talked to her, they would have realized she was a female.”

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