‘I told him I can’t breathe’: Police punch teen girl after mistaking her for black male suspect
On the day Tatyana Hargrove rode her bike to try to buy her dad a Father’s Day gift, temperatures in Bakersfield, Calif., had reached triple digits, so she stopped on the way home to take a drink of water in the shade.
The 19-year-old girl turned around at the intersection where she had paused and noticed three police cars. One of the officers, she said, had already drawn his gun.
What followed, according to both Hargrove and police, was a case of mistaken identity and an altercation in which police punched Hargrove in the mouth, unleashed a police K-9 dog on her and arrested her. Though the incident took place June 18, it gained wider attention this week after the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP shared a video of Hargrove’s account on its Facebook page that garnered millions of views.
On the day police stopped Hargrove, officers had been looking for a suspect — described as a 25- to 30-year-old, bald black man standing 5-foot-10 and weighing about 170 pounds — who had threatened several people with a machete at a nearby grocery store, according to a police report.
“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,” Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, wrote in his report.
But Hargrove is none of those things.
For starters, she is female. She stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 115 pounds “soaking wet,” according to her father in a widely shared video of Hargrove’s account of the incident posted on the Facebook page for the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP.
In the video, Hargrove stands with a pair of crutches near the intersection where she was stopped by police and described how one of the officers demanded she give him her backpack, she said.
When she asked if they had a warrant, one of the officers gestured toward a police K-9 behind him, she said.
“I then got scared and then I was like, here, take the backpack, just take the backpack,” Hargrove added.
After that, she said in the video, the officer grabbed her by her wrist, then punched her and threw her onto the ground; shortly afterward, the police K-9 “came and started eating at my leg.”
The same officer then put his knee on her back and other knee against her head, despite her protests, she said.
“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!’” she 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 the police report, Hargrove was arrested for resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer. Hargrove was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of her injuries, including abrasions on her face and scrapes and punctures from the police K-9’s “engagement on her right thigh,” Moore, the arresting officer, wrote in his report.