A black 19-year-old woman was punched in the mouth by an officer, bitten by a police K9 and arrested last month after an officer said he mistook her for a 180-pound bald man suspected of threatening people with a machete at a nearby grocery store.
Tatyana Hargrove’s story has been gaining attention this week after the NAACP's Bakersfield chapter released a Facebook video Monday morning recapping the incident, which it said was racially motivated.
It comes about six months after the group released a similar video alleging two black college students were roughed up similarly by Bakersfield Police Department officers without cause.
In the most recent video, Hargrove alleges that on June 18 she was walking home from Wooden Nickel Trading Company on Ming Avenue, where she had gone for a Father’s Day gift, when she was approached by an officer. He drew his gun as soon as he got out of his patrol car, she claims.
The result of the contact? An altercation that left Hargrove with scrapes, bruises, a punch to the mouth from one officer and a bite from a K9 released by another. During the course of her arrest, Hargrove said she feared for her life.
“He [the officer] put his other knee on my head, and I told him, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and I started yelling out: 'Somebody help me, somebody help me, they’re going to kill me,’” Hargrove said in the video, which received more than 225,000 views in eight hours and attracted hundreds of comments expressing frustration and anger.
She declined to speak to The Californian through NAACP Bakersfield chapter President Patrick Jackson, who spoke on her behalf.
She was arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer, according to BPD arrest records.
The NAACP says Hargrove was targeted for her race. BPD says it was a case of mistaken identity.
BPD Sgt. Ryan Kroeker wouldn’t comment on specific matters in the police report, but said that criminal charges have been filed against Hargrove and the case has been forwarded to the Kern County District Attorney’s office for review. The department has determined the force used was appropriate, and no internal investigation has been launched, Kroeker added.
‘DON’T LIE TO ME, THAT’S A GIRL’S NAME’
The arresting officer, Christopher Moore, said in a police report obtained by The Californian that he didn’t know Hargrove was a woman until after she was handcuffed.
He mistook her for a machete-wielding suspect who had come out of the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market on Ming and Ashe avenues after threatening several people, according to the report.
That man, who police identified as Douglas Washington before arresting him the next day, was described in multiple police reports from June 18 as a 25- to 30-year-old man, bald, about 170 pounds standing at 5 feet 10 inches. He was wearing a white t-shirt, dark jeans and a pink or red backpack that contained the machete.
When Moore found Hargrove behind the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, the 115-pound teen, who stands 5 feet 2 inches, was wearing a baggy white shirt, blue jean shorts and a black hat. She was straddling a bicycle, a red and black backpack slung over her shoulder. In it were three cold water bottles, Hargrove said in her video. She had pulled over in the shade for a drink.
“She appeared to be a male and matched the description of the suspect that had brandished the machete and was also within the same complex the suspect had fled to,” Moore wrote in his report. He thought she had a weapon in her bag.
Moore, who patrols with a K9, pulled over, drew his sidearm and ordered Hargrove to put her hands in the air, according to the report.
Hargrove turned around and said: “What you all stopping another black person for. I’m out of here,” according to Moore’s report.
Jackson denied Hargrove ever spoke those words and disputes other parts of Moore’s report. The incident escalated when Moore asked to search Hargrove’s backpack, she said in the video. When she asked if he had a warrant, she claims, he gestured toward his K9 and then released the dog.
None of that is mentioned in the police report.
Instead, Moore wrote that Hargrove ignored police commands, placed her feet on her bike pedals and that it “appeared she was going to flee.”
It was around then that Officer G. Vasquez arrived. Moore told Hargrove she matched the description of a man who had just threatened people with a machete, and he ordered her again to get off her bike and put her hands up.
Hargrove’s response, according to Moore: “This isn’t happening. I’m leaving.”
The report doesn’t indicate that at any time Hargrove fled.
Moore retrieved his K9, Hamer. Moments later, Vasquez was handcuffing her when she spun her left shoulder into him, according to the report.
He was knocked off balance and fell to the ground, his legs tangled in the bicycle. Hargrove fell backward on top of him, then spun around into "a mounting position” astride the officer. Vasquez punched her in the mouth then pushed her off, but she got back on top, the report states.
Seeing that Hargrove was within arm’s reach of her backpack, which Moore still suspected contained a machete, he released his dog, his report states. She tried fighting him off, grabbing his muzzle.
“Let go of my dog,” Moore shouted. She thrashed back and forth, screamed obscenities and kicked at the officers as they subdued her, the report states.
Officers searched her and the backpack but found no weapons, according to the report.
Once Hargrove was in the backseat of the patrol car, Moore asked her name. “Tatyana,” she said.
“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 responded.
“This was when I first discovered she was a female,” Moore wrote in his report.
He wrote that when he brought Hargrove to Kern Medical Center, several nurses referred to Hargrove as a man, asking what “he” had done. Moore corrected them, saying she was a girl and the nurses “were surprised and apologized for the mistake.”
A SIMILAR ACCOUNT
Hargrove’s account is a familiar narrative. Just six months ago, the NAACP released a similar video featuring Timothy Grismore and Xavier Hines, two black college students who said they were taking a break from studying to get a late night meal at Taco Bell when they claim they were stopped by an unmarked BPD patrol car, roughed up, and arrested.
Police said at the time they suspected the two were illegally jaywalking. Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green declined to press charges and said police had no reason to contact the pair the night they were arrested.
Grismore and Hines have since retained an attorney at Chain Cohn Stiles and filed a civil suit against the department. Their trial is set for January 2019.
Neil Gehlawat, who is representing Grismore and Hines, said he’s seen Hargrove’s video and is appalled by the events, calling it “consistent with the culture and allegations” leveled previously against the department.
Jackson said it was positive proof of the BPD's pattern of targeting black people in that neighborhood. Hargrove’s incident occurred about a mile from where Grismore and Hines were arrested. It’s a neighborhood where police say they try to proactively curb violence among criminal street gangs.
“It’s becoming more and more of a pattern,” said Jackson, who alleges Hargrove was arrested for simply walking down the street. “She’s never been in trouble before, and all of a sudden you’re a heinous criminal in two seconds.”
He wants the Kern County District Attorney’s office to drop all charges against Hargrove, but more importantly, to bring public awareness of the inequality in policing.