Teen girl files claim against police who mistook her for a black male suspect and punched her

“Which I think is just victim-blaming,” Gehlawat said.

In a widely shared video of Hargrove’s account of the incident, filmed by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP in July, the teenager 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.”

Hargrove was arrested and 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,” Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, wrote in his police report.

Moore wrote that “several nurses” at the hospital referred to Hargrove as a male and that “when I corrected them and advised she was a female they were surprised and apologized for the mistake.”

After she was treated for her injuries, Hargrove was booked into jail, the report said. She was detained for nearly 16 hours there before being bailed out by her parents, according to the NAACP.

In the police report, Moore wrote that Hargrove had “spun into” one of the officers with her left shoulder, causing him to fall backward, and then “quickly maneuvered her body to get back on top of him” after the officer punched her.

“At this time I was forced to quickly consider the following; [Hargrove] matched the description of the suspect that had brandished a machete, her backpack was within her arm’s reach and the main compartment was unzipped allowing her immediate access to the machete,” Moore wrote. After weighing whether he could use his Taser or baton on Hargrove, Moore wrote that he decided to unleash the police K-9, Hamer.

In the police report, Moore wrote that after officers placed Hargrove in a police car, she continued to scream out of the window at them for about five minutes.

“While Hargrove was in the back seat 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?’ ” the police report stated. “Hargrove said, ‘I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one.’ This was when I first discovered she was a female.”

A search of her backpack revealed no weapons, the report stated.

The claim against Bakersfield alleges police used “excessive and unreasonable force” against Hargrove, as well as civil rights violations under federal and state law.

“One of the questions in my mind is, even if this case is a case of mistaken identity, why didn’t they do more to ascertain her identity prior to using excessive force?” Gehlawat said.

He described the impossible situation Hargrove had been put in to reporters last week: “She tried to get the dog off of her. The officers described that as her not being compliant, but I bet that if any one of us had a canine biting onto some part of our body, our natural instinct might be to try to get the dog off of us so that the dog wouldn’t keep biting us.”

Though there is no fixed dollar amount attached to the claim, Gehlawat said Hargrove “deserves to be compensated for physical injuries and the emotional toll this has taken,” as well as medical bills and lost wages.

She has continued to see doctors about the injury to her right leg, which causes her to have trouble standing for longer than 15 minutes at a time, he added. Since the incident, Hargrove has not been able to return to her job at Little Caesars, where she was a team leader.

At the news conference last week, Hargrove said she has become “very paranoid,” reclusive, and won’t allow her parents to leave windows or doors unlocked.

“Her parents say that she used to be independent,” he said. “But now, around patrol vehicles, lights, sirens, she’s fearful … which is understandable because, the last time that happened, before she knew it an officer was pointing his gun at her and they had a canine biting her leg.”