Black teenager Tatyana Hargrove says she was beaten by police and attacked by a K-9 dog after pausing a bike ride to take a drink of water on a 103 degree day in Bakersfield, Calif.
Police were searching for a suspect who had threatened patrons at grocery store with a machete when they came across Hargrove. The man they were searching for stood 5’10”, weighed 170 pounds and was male.
In very sharp contrast, Hargrove is 19, female, about 115 pounds and 5’2”, and she was unarmed at the time of the attack.
The incident happened on June 18 but has recently picked up steam after the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP posted a video of Hargrove recounting the incident to its Facebook page.
Hargrove was on her way home from a store to get her dad a Father’s Day gift. She never made it into the store because it was closed. While riding back, she stopped to drink some water.
“And then I turned around, and there were three cop cars. And one of the officers already had a gun drawn on me,” she recalled.
The video shows close-ups of abrasions on Hargrove’s body, including her cheek and her head, as well as cuts on her leg.
“I turned to another office who was in front of me, Officer Vasquez, and I told him, I said, ‘Sir, what’s going on?’ and then he was like, ‘Give me the backpack,’ and I was like, ‘Do you have a warrant?’”
Hargrove then noticed a large K-9 dog standing behind her. Frightened, Hargrove freely offered the backpack to the officers.
“And then after that, he grabbed me by my wrist, like this,” she said, demonstrating, “and then he grabbed me by my neck, punched me, and then he threw me onto the ground. And then that’s when the K-9 came and started eating at my leg.”
At one point an officer put his knee in Hargrove’s back and his other knee on her head.
“I told him ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and then I started yelling out, ‘Somebody help me, somebody help me! They’re gonna kill me!’” Hargrove said. “And then finally, he let me up, he tied my hands behind my back and then he tied my feet together and he threw me in the back of the car.”
According to police documents obtained by the Washington Post, Hargrove was arrested and charged with resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer.
Hargrove was taken to the hospital before she was booked into jail. She spent more than half a day there before her parents came to bail her out.
In the police report Officer Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, wrote:
“At this time I was forced to quickly consider the following; Hargrove matched the description of the suspect that had brandished a machete, her backpack was within her arm’s reach and the main compartment was unzipped allowing her immediate access to the machete.”
No weapons were found in Hargrove’s backpack — or in her possession at all at the time of the incident.
Moore also alleged that he did not know Hargrove was a female until she was in the cop car and provided her name.
“Hargrove said, ‘I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one,’” according to Moore. “This was when I first discovered she was a female.”
But in Hargrove’s account of the story, at least one unidentified person appeared to realize they had the wrong person.
“On my way, going back to the car, I heard somebody say, ‘That’s not the guy, that’s not the guy,’” Hargrove said.
Hargrove’s parents were also interviewed for the video but were not identified by name. Her father recounted Hargrove’s phone call from the hospital.
“The officer got on the phone, and I asked him what happened, and he told me that it was mistaken identity, and I’m like, ‘Wow,’” he said. “I’m like, you know, is she okay? And he was like ‘Well, she’s alive, and she’s in the hospital.’”
The police report states that Hargrove attacked an officer, a claim she denies.
“There were dogs and guns drawn on me. Like, I would never do anything like that,” Hargrove said.
Her father also pointed out the absurdity of the claim.
“They would say that my daughter attacked them? Come on. She’s 5’2”, 115 pounds soaking wet, and that she attacked a 200 pound man?” he questioned.
Bakersfield Police Department Sgt. Ryan Kroeker originally reported to Bakersfield.com that the use of force during the arrest was appropriate. But, according to KGET, the Bakersfield Police Department announced on Wednesday that it plans to conduct an internal review of the incident.
The Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP is holding a fundraiser for Hargrove and is hosting a rally on Thursday evening. At the time of this report the campaign currently has over $2,600 and a goal of $10,000.
A Change.org petition has also been launched, calling on the officers to be put on leave and have criminal charges filed against them. At the time of this report the petition has over 6,800 signers — just a few hundred shy of its 7,500 goal.
While the officers insist that the incident was simply mistaken identity, research suggests that Black girls are often viewed as less innocent than white girls. A recently released report found that Black girls are perceived as stoic, in need of less nurturing and knowing more about sexual relations than white girls.
For the study, “Girl Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” published by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, the periods of childhood and adolescence were divided into four age brackets: 0–4, 5–9, 10–14 and 15–19 years old. Across all age ranges, participants had an implicit bias against Black girls, collectively viewing them as more adult-like than white girls.