A group of protesters outside Kern County Superior Court demanded during a rally Thursday that the District Attorney’s office drop charges against Tatyana Hargrove, a 19-year-old girl who was allegedly punched by a Bakersfield Police officer in a case of mistaken identity.
About 150 people gathered at the Liberty Bell outside of the courthouse for the two-hour rally to support Hargrove. NAACP Bakersfield Chapter President Patrick Jackson urged attendees to call District Attorney Lisa Green and Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh “10 times each everyday” demanding that charges be dropped against Hargrove.
Jackson also encouraged the crowd to attend Wednesday’s City Council meeting to bring the incident to the attention of city leaders, and to urge them to make changes to a police department he said is riddled with problems.
“We’re talking about a young woman they are trying to deem a criminal who was really a victim,” Jackson said. Hargrove declined to speak to reporters Thursday.
Hargrove was bit by a police K9, punched in the mouth by an officer and then arrested and detained for about 19 hours June 18 — all because of a case of mistaken identity. She was arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer, according to BPD arrest records.
Her story became the subject of national attention after the NAACP Bakersfield Chapter released a Facebook video retelling the encounter. It has gained about 5.3 million views.
Police were searching for a man suspected of threatening employees of a nearby grocery store with a machete. He was described in multiple police reports as bald, 170 pounds with a goatee and standing between 5-feet-10-inches and 6 feet tall.
Hargrove stands at 5-feet-2-inches and weighs about 115 pounds.
It’s also triggered Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin to launch an internal investigation, a departure from the department’s stance that officers involved used appropriate force and acted within BPD guidelines.
The incident comes at a time when the department has been beleaguered by high-profile incidents that have prompted former California Attorney General Kamala Harris to launch a civil rights investigation into the agency late last year.
Scores of people who allege their rights had been violated by police attended the Thursday rally, sharing their stories with Hargrove.
“I’m getting justice for him too,” Hargrove told a supporter after the rally ended.
Hargrove’s mother, Alecia Reece, applauded Chief Martin for launching the internal investigation, but said it wasn’t enough. The officers involved, she said, need to be fired, put in jail, and “be put through what my daughter was put through.”
“I am so proud of my daughter for standing up. I am so proud of her for telling her story because a 19-year-old girl, to come up here and stand against the Bakersfield Police Department — this is a strong woman that I raised,” Reece said before the crowd. She turned back to her daughter, who was sitting, her crutches beside her. “You’re my hero. You are my hero.”
The crowd applauded, shouting and chanting “no justice, no peace.” Others raised their fists in solidarity before joining hands to show each other “the energy” they have together, one pastor said before leading a prayer.
Hargrove’s father, Craig Reece, said after the rally that the experience has changed his daughter. The girl he once knew who was full of energy has withdrawn, is fearful to go anywhere without her parents, refuses to leave the house, and has become skittish around dogs, he said.
“She’s not the same anymore. She’s not full of energy anymore. She used to be so full of life, freewheeling and playing with her friends, but now she’s afraid,” Reece said. “This did something to her mentally. It’s going to take time. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.”