Bakersfield – A black teenager contends she was confronted by police at gunpoint, punched in the mouth and bitten by a police dog after she was mistaken for a much larger, bald man suspected of threatening people with a machete.
Tatyana Hargrove’s account is contained in a video posted on Facebook on Monday by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP, which contends that race played a role in the June 18 incident. As of Tuesday, the video had received nearly three million views.
The Police Department determined the use of force was appropriate, Sergeant Ryan Kroeker told the Bakersfield Californian.
Hargrove, 19, is shown with crutches in the video, and there are close-ups of scratches, bites, bruises and scrapes on her face and body.
Hargrove said she had ridden her bicycle to a local store to buy a Father’s Day gift. But it was closed and she decided to return home, she said.
‘I can’t breathe’
Temperatures in the Central Valley city had hit around 39°C, and Hargrove, who had three bottles of water in a backpack, stopped to take a drink.
“And then I turned around and there were three cop cars and one of the officers already had a gun drawn at me,” she said.
The confrontation escalated after an officer demanded to search her backpack and she asked if he had a warrant.
Hargrove contends that police grabbed her by the wrist and neck, punched her and threw her to the ground, where she was bitten in the leg by a police dog.
One officer put his knee in her back and another knee on her head, she said.
“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.
Eventually, she was arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer.
‘Didn’t realise she was female’
Police said they mistook her for a man who reportedly had threatened people with a machete at a nearby store.
The suspect was described as a 25 to 30-year-old bald man standing about 1.77m tall and weighing about 77kg. Hargrove is 1.57m tall and weighs 52kg, the Bakersfield California reported.
Hargrove, who was wearing a hat, “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,” the arresting officer, Christopher Moore, wrote in a report obtained by the Californian. He thought she had a weapon in her bag.
According to the report, the confrontation escalated after Hargrove said she was going to leave. She was punched in the mouth and bitten after she knocked down an officer and got on top of him, according to the report.
She was subdued after fighting the dog and the officers, the report indicated.
Moore said he didn’t realise Hargrove was female until she told him her first name.
“I’m a girl. I just don’t dress like one,” she said.
The suspected machete-wielder, Douglas Washington, 24, was arrested the next day and remained jailed. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.