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Arrest, K9 attack in case of mistaken identity in California

By Ray Downs
Arrest, K9 attack in case of mistaken identity in California
Tatyana Hargrove was arrested by police June 18 after they mistook her for a suspect in an assault. Photo courtesy NAACP/Facebook

July 13 (UPI) -- Police in Bakersfield, Calif., said they are investigating the K9 attack and arrest of a 19-year-old woman officers mistook for a 30-year-old man, an incident the woman's family blamed on racial discrimination.

On June 18, officers mistook the 5-foot-2, 115-pound Tatyana Hargrove for a man they were searching for, Douglas Washington, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, bald and has a goatee.

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Police were responding to a call involving a machete-wielding man at a nearby grocery store. When Hargrove biked past the grocery store, police confronted her and demanded to search her bag.

"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," arresting officer Christopher Moore wrote in the arrest report.

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Hargrove said police immediately resorted to violence after she asked police if they had a warrant. Officer G. Vasquez, she said, answered her question by pointing behind her.

"I looked behind me and there was a big K9 dog and then I got scared and was like, 'Here, just take the backpack,'" she said in a video uploaded to Facebook by the NAACP. "And then after that, he grabbed me by my wrist ... he grabbed me by my neck and punched me and then he threw me to the ground and that's when the K9 came and started eating at my leg."

At one point, an officer put his knee on Hargrove's back and pushed her head into the pavement.

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"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."

Officer Christopher Moore wrote in his police report that when they stopped Hargrove, she said, "What you all stopping another black person for? I'm leaving."

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Hargrove denied she said this, according to NAACP Bakersfield chapter president Patrick Johnson, who spoke to the Bakersfield Californian on her behalf.

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According to the police report, Hargrove was sitting on her bicycle with her hands on her head when Vasquez grabbed her hands. He says she spun her shoulder to her left, which caused them both to fall down, with Hargrove on top. Vasquez then believed he was "at a disadvantage," so he punched the 19-year-old woman in the mouth.

Vasquez then got on top of Hargrove and Moore ordered his K9 to attack the woman. At one point, Moore said he put Hargrove's hand in the dog's mouth after she had tried to stop the dog from biting her by grabbing onto its muzzle.

When she was under arrest, she told Moore her name was "Tatyana."

"Don't lie to me. That's a girl's name. What is your name?" he said.

"I'm a girl. I just don't dress like one," she said.

"This was when I first discovered she was a female," Moore wrote.

After Hargrove received medical treatment, Moore arrested her for resisting arrest and aggravated assault on an officer and took her to jail.

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The suspect police were looking for was eventually apprehended without incident.

The Hargrove family says Tatyana was racially profiled, unjustifiably beaten and attacked by a dog, and then arrested on false charges.

Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin on Wednesday said he opened an internal investigation into the incident.

"The case was initially reviewed, however Chief Martin has been very open and transparent about building, maintaining and strengthening relationships within the community," BPD Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said. "That is why he ordered an internal investigation."

They want a full investigation, body cameras put on Bakersfield police officers and for the charges against Hargrove to be dismissed.

Johnson said it's "baffling" that police mistook Hargrove for a man.

"People are getting fed up with law enforcement taking advantage of their power. Her story is really transparent," he said. "Someone looks at that story and says 'how does an officer make the mistake of identifying her as the person they're trying to capture?' I believe people can get behind that story."

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