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Police officers with the San Leandro, California police department “stomped” a pregnant black woman’s stomach and caused a miscarriage, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the city and multiple officers.
When an unidentified number of officers pulled her fiancé over, Emerald Black — who was “visibly pregnant” and still wearing hospital clothes from a visit earlier in the day — requested to stay in the car, according to court documents filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. But officers allegedly “yanked pregnant Ms. Black from the car, taunted her, piled on top of her and stomped on her stomach leaving a shoe mark.”
“Days later,” according to the lawsuit, Black experienced a miscarriage, which ended her pregnancy. No criminal charges were ever filed against her, the lawsuit said.
Early in the morning of June 7, 2019, Black and her fiancé were pulled over for “bad registration tags,” according to the lawsuit. Black told officers that earlier in the day, she had been to the hospital for an exam; there, she found out that she was at a “high risk” for a miscarriage. She was still wearing the clothes when the incident occurred, the lawsuit said.
After the alleged beating, the officers refused to allow Black to put on shoes, according to the filing.
In the lawsuit, Black alleges that her pregnancy ended “as a result of the officers’ excessive force.” The complaint also said that Black had “suffered other physical injuries, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress both from the incident and loss of her child.”
Black is seeking general and punitive damages “in a sum to be proven at trial,” as well as punitive damages for loss of wages and income as well as medical expenses. The city of San Leandro has so far not responded to the lawsuit in federal court. Emails requesting comment from San Leandro mayor Pauline Cutter and chief of police Jeff Tudor were not immediately returned.
“It is important to note that Ms. Black had committed absolutely no crimes, nor was she even suspected of any. She was simply a passenger in the car being pulled over for a minor vehicle infraction,” Black's lawyer Patrick Buelna told VICE News.
“Ms. Black, a pregnant African-American female, was torn from the car even after informing officers that she was pregnant and had just left the hospital,” Buelna continued. “Ms. Black simply asked to remain in the car because she was pregnant and had just left the hospital earlier that day and learned she was at risk for a miscarriage. If officers were adamant about her exiting the car, they should have simply, and gently, assisted Ms. Black getting out of the car. Instead they treated her like she had just committed a violent felony.”
Black’s lawsuit isn’t the first of its kind. Last November, a North Carolina woman sued the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina police department claiming that she was “violently thrown” to the floor and suffered a miscarriage. And in 2016, a woman from Staten Island alleged that officers from the New York Police Department “battered” her, causing her to miscarry. (A jury dismissed the lawsuit in December 2019, according to court documents.)
The lawsuit comes at a time of renewed scrutiny on police violence. On Tuesday, Minneapolis police fired tear gas at people protesting the death of George Floyd; a video of the events leading up to Floyd’s death showed a now former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe.
Read Emerald Black’s complaint against the city of San Leandro below:
Cover: Cropped Hand Of Doctor Examining Pregnant Woman Belly With Stethoscope - stock photo (Vithun Khamsong / EyeEm via Getty Images)