NEW YORK – Police are investigating after a video was posted online that shows a group of New York officers, one of them wielding a stun gun, violently yanking a toddler from his mother’s arms while arresting her at a Brooklyn food stamp office.
A witness said a security officer confronted the woman, Jazmine Headley, who had sat on the floor of the crowded office for two hours because of a lack of chairs. Police were called when she refused to leave.
The woman ended up lying face-up on the floor during a tug of war over the child.
“The baby was screaming for his life,” Nyashia Ferguson, who posted video on Facebook under the name Monae Sinclair, told The New York Times . “The lady was begging for them to get off of her. I was scared.”
Other customers in the city office shouted at the officers. At one point, an officer can be seen on the video pulling her stun gun and pointing it at people in the angry crowd.
Headley was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, endangering the welfare of a child and trespassing. As of Monday morning, she was still in jail because there was a warrant for her arrest in New Jersey, prosecutors said.
“We did not request any bail and Ms. Headley’s hold is in connection with a warrant from New Jersey,” the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office said on Twitter. “We are reaching out to authorities in that state to expedite her release.”
The Brooklyn public defender’s office called on prosecutors to dismiss the charges, asking “why police were ever involved.”
“In our experience, people are often treated abysmally when seeking support from many of the city bureaucracies that are supposed to be helping them,” Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, said in a statement.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat, likened the officers involved in Headley’s arrest to “Border Patrol police snatching away” a baby. He called the arrest “a blemish on our entire city.”
“The mother didn’t endanger the welfare of the child. The actions of the department endangered the welfare of the child,” Adams said at a news conference Monday morning. “If it’s wrong in Mexico, then it’s wrong in New York City.”
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said it was independently investigating and “reviewing all available videos and interviewing witnesses with the intention of reaching a swift decision.”
The New York Police Department, which called Friday’s confrontation “troubling,” said security guards had “brought the woman to the floor” before officers arrested her as she resisted.
Ferguson disputed that, saying a police officer had forced the woman to the floor.
“This is unacceptable, appalling and heart breaking,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat, said 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.”
A court document said the toddler was just under 18 months old. A family member was taking care of the child, authorities said.
“Being poor is not a crime,” said Democrat Letitia James, the city’s public advocate and the state’s attorney general-elect, in a statement. “No mother should have to experience the trauma and humiliation we all witnessed in this video.”
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