The Bakersfield Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a teenage girl claims she was beaten by officers and attacked by a police dog in June after they mistook her for a male suspect.
The probe was triggered only after Tatyana Hargrove described the police encounter in a video that was posted this week on the NAACP’s Facebook page. The confrontation has also sparked a petition demanding that the officers be placed on leave and that charges be filed against them.
In the widely circulated video, the 19-year-old Bakersfield resident, using crutches, said officers never told her why they stopped her on the afternoon of June 18.
“After they beat me and threw me in the cop car, that’s when they told me,” she said.
She said officers told her she matched the description of a suspect who was armed with a machete and had visited a grocery store.
According to a Bakersfield police report obtained by The Times, officers had received a report of a man with a machete who attempted to stab an employee earlier that day inside the store. The employee told officers that he believed the suspect attacked him because they had banned him from the store.
The suspect was described as a 30-year-old black male who was 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighed 160 pounds and had a shaved head and goatee, according to the police report. The man was carrying a backpack and pink duffel bag.
Hargrove is black, and stands 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds, according to the police report.
‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe’
Hargrove said she had visited a neighborhood store that day to pick up a gift for Father’s Day. The store was closed, so she got on her bicycle and rode home in the blistering heat.
At some point, Hargrove said she stopped to take a sip from one of three water bottles in her backpack.
When Hargrove turned around, she saw three patrol cruisers and an officer pointing a gun at her, she said.
The officers then asked her if she had stopped by the grocery store. Hargrove said she told them “No” and asked another officer what was happening.
The officer then demanded she hand over her backpack, she said. When Hargrove asked if he had a warrant, she said, he pointed toward a police dog.
“I looked behind me and it was a big K-9 dog,” Hargrove said. “I then got scared and then I was like ‘Here just take the backpack.’”
She said an officer then grabbed her wrist and neck and punched her.
“He then threw me onto the ground and then that’s when the K-9 came and started eating at my leg,” Hargrove said.
After Hargrove was rolled around, she said, the officer put his knees on her back and head.
“I told him ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,’” Hargrove said, and then I started yelling out: ‘Somebody help me. Somebody help me. They gonna kill me.”
The officer then picked her up, tied her hands and feet and tossed her into the back of a cruiser, she said.
Hargrove said she heard someone say: “That’s not the guy. That’s not the guy.”
‘She appeared to be a male’
The officers’ accounts of the moments leading up to the takedown are very different from Hargrove’s.
Officer Christopher Moore wrote in his report that he saw Hargrove on her bike and noticed she had a backpack, so he yelled, “Police K-9, put your hands in the air” and pointed his weapon at her.
“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,” he wrote.
After yelling at her, Moore wrote, she looked at him and said, ‘“What you all stopping another black person for. I’m out of here.”’
A second officer arrived and also drew his weapon. Moore said he then told Hargrove she was being detained because she matched the suspect’s description. He said he warned her that if she didn’t follow his commands, he would release his dog on her.
Once Hargrove set her backpack on the ground and raised her hands, the second officer approached her and grabbed her hands.
But Hargrove spun into the officer, who then fell to the ground, Moore wrote. She landed on top of the officer and mounted him, he said.
The officer then punched her once in the mouth and was able to push her off, according to the report. But Hargrove tried to get back onto the officer, he said.
Because the officers did not search Hargrove for any weapons, Moore said, he released his dog and it bit her right thigh.
As he ordered her to stop resisting, Moore said, she grabbed the dog’s muzzle and sat up.
After Hargrove was pulled onto her stomach, she started “shouting obscenities and kicking violently,” he wrote.
Moore said he then placed his knee on her face and pinned her to the ground as he put handcuffs on her.
As Hargrove spun around and kicked at them, the second officer placed his knees on her back and her ankles were placed in police hobbles.
Hargrove was carried into the back of the patrol cruiser, Moore said.
According to the report, when Hargrove told officers her name is Tatyana, Moore said: “Don’t lie to me, that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?”
Hargrove responded, “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.
‘She was coming home to celebrate Father’s Day with me. It’s not right’
As paramedics tended to Hargrove’s injures, the victim from the grocery store told officers she was not the suspect, according to the report.
Hargrove was taken to a hospital and called her parents. Her father said he asked to speak to an officer who told him “it was mistaken identity.”
“I am like ‘Wow, is she OK?’” he said in the video. He said the officer responded, saying, ‘“Well, she’s alive and she’s in the hospital.”
“She was coming home to celebrate Father’s Day with me,” said Hargrove’s father, Craig Reece. “It’s not right.”
Hargrove was ultimately arrested on suspicion of resisting an officer and assault on a peace officer, according to the report. She suffered puncture wounds from the dog bite, and cuts to her face and right knee.
Bakersfield police Sgt. Ryan Kroeker, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations, saying only that “there are two sides to every story.”
He said the officers involved in Hargrove’s arrest have not been placed on leave.
As for the suspect in the grocery store assault, police later arrested Douglas Washington after the victim identified him from a photo lineup, according to the report. Washington told investigators he is schizophrenic and did not intend to harm the victim, the report said.
Patrick Jackson, president of the NACCP’s Bakersfield branch, said Hargrove’s encounter was uncalled for, and demanded the Police Department hold the officers accountable.
The organization is also asking that any charges filed against her be dropped. Hargrove is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
“All of this for a mistaken identity?” Jackson asked.