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Police thought she was the machete-wielding male suspect they were looking for.
In a case of “mistaken identity,” a black teen girl in Bakersfield, California, was confronted, attacked, and arrested by police who thought she was a male suspect said to be carrying a machete.
In a viral Facebook video from the Bakersfield NAACP, 19-year-old Tatyana Hargrove and her parents shared Hargrove’s story of being allegedly attacked and arrested by police before the officers realized she was a 5-foot-2, 115-pound teenager.
According to Bakersfield police, they were looking for a bald, 5-foot-10, 170-pound 25- to 30-year-old man who had threatened patrons at a grocery store with a machete. But instead, police stopped Hargrove at a nearby intersection. She said she was riding her bike with the intention of buying her dad a gift for Father’s Day and had stopped there to take a drink of water in the shade.
In the NAACP chapter’s video, Hargrove said during her stop she noticed three police cars around her, with one officer having his gun drawn and another holding onto a K-9 dog. One cop asked to see her backpack, and when asked by Hargrove if he had a warrant, he gestured toward the dog, she said.
That’s when Hargrove said the cop grabbed her wrist, punched her, then pinned her to the ground with his knees. They then unleashed the K-9 on her, and it began to bite and tear at her leg.
“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!’ 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,” Hargrove said in the video.
Upon being placed in the car, Hargrove said she heard someone outside the vehicle say she wasn’t “the guy” they were after. The police took her to the hospital to be treated for her injuries, then took her to jail, where she was detailed for nearly 16 hours before being bailed out by her parents.
The NAACP chapter’s video shows recorded testimony from Hargrove, her parents, and a family friend, as well as photos of injuries to her head, face, and legs. Since being shared on July 10, the video has been viewed nearly 5 million times and shared more than 150,000 times.
However, Bakersfield police reported they arrested Hargrove for resisting or delaying arrest and for aggravated assault on an officer, claiming that she “spun into” one officer with her left shoulder and “quickly maneuvered her body to get back on top of him” after he punched her.
Their report also notes that Hargrove continued to scream out the police car window five minutes after being arrested and placed inside. That’s when Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, wrote he realized she was not their male suspect.
“While Hargrove was in the backseat, I asked what her name was and when she provided it as ‘Tatyana,’ I said, ‘Don’t lie to me, that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?'” Hargrove said, ‘I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one.’ This was when I first discovered she was a female,” Moore wrote.
In his report, Moore also included several details suggesting that they had reason to believe that Hargrove matched the description of their suspect. She was “within the same complex the suspect had fled to,” and he noted that she was also mistaken as male by “several nurses:” “When I corrected them and advised she was a female they were surprised and apologized for the mistake.”
Though Bakersfield police determined the arresting officers used appropriate force on Hargrove, she disputes their story. The NAACP chapter stands behind her, too, having organized a “Justice for Tatyana” rally for Thursday, a Change.org petition to have her charges dropped, and a GoFundMe campaign for her medical bills.
“I read the paper, my paperwork, though, and it said that I shoved an officer and flipped him on his back. There were dogs and guns drawn on me. Like, I would never do anything like that,” Hargrove said.
Watch the Bakersfield NAACP’s video below:
19 yr old girl beaten by police and maliciously attacked by K9 police dog while riding her bike home. PLEASE SHARE! Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) #JusticeForTatyana #PoliceBrutality #NoJusticeNoPeace #NAACPSign The Petition: https://www.change.org/p/kamala-harris-justice-for-19-yr-old-girl-beaten-by-police?recruiter=333749739&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLinkSupport Her GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/help-tatyana-hargrove
Posted by NAACP Bakersfield on Monday, July 10, 2017
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.