At least seven New York City police officers surrounded a mother and tried to rip her infant from her arms as she lay on the floor of a crowded social services center in Brooklyn, where she’d been waiting to collect a voucher for city-funded day care.
Video of the incident taken by a bystander shows 23-year-old Jazmine Headley, who works as a cleaner, lying on the floor of a Human Resources Administration office in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday, with her one-year-old son in her arms. As a group of about seven officers surrounds her, one begins to try to aggressively wrestle the infant out of her arms. “They’re hurting my son,” Headley shouts. Other bystanders start yelling “Oh my God” and try to intervene. At one point, one of the officers points her stun-device at Headley.
Officers charged Headley with resisting arrest, acting in a manner that puts a child at risk of injury, obstructing governmental administration, and criminal trespass. In a statement to VICE News, the NYPD said that video of the incident was "troubling" and under review.
"The NYPD was called after office staff and HRA [Human Resources Association] peace officers made unsuccessful attempts to remove this individual from the facility due to her disorderly conduct toward others, and for obstructing the hallway," a spokesperson wrote via email.
The video went viral over the weekend and generated outrage. On Sunday, New York’s Attorney General-elect Letitia James slammed the NYPD and called for a full investigation into the incident.
“Being poor is not a crime,” James, a Democrat who recently became the first black woman nominated by a major party to statewide office in New York, wrote on Twitter. "The actions of the NYPD in this video are appalling and contemptible."
Headley arrived at the North Brooklyn office to discover that all the seats in the hallway waiting area were occupied, so she sat on the floor instead, according to a Facebook post by Nyashia Ferguson, who shot the video. A security guard soon approached Headley to tell her that she couldn’t sit on the floor because she’d be blocking the hallway. Ferguson wrote that Headley responded that she wasn’t blocking anything and had her baby with her. The interaction escalated quickly to the point that the security guard summoned a supervisor and, eventually, the police.
Headley later refused medical attention for herself and her child, according to local news outlets, and she remains in jail. Her mother, Jacqueline Jenkins, ultimately took custody of the child, and the Administration of Children’s Services was notified.
"I was devastated to see something like that happen to my daughter and grandson,” Jenkins told ABC7. “And how this officer was yanking on my grandson to get him out of my daughter's arms.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also addressed the video. “This is unacceptable, appalling, and heartbreaking,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “I’d like to understand what transpired and how these officers or the NYPD justifies this.”
“It’s hard to watch this video,” Johnson added.
Cover image: Screenshot from Nyashia Ferguson's video