Woman whose child was ripped from her arms by police awarded $625,000

Chris Riotta
AP

A woman who was violently arrested and had her infant child torn out of her arms by officials before being sent to Rikers Island has reached a $625,000 (£469,043) settlement with New York City.

Jazmine Headley filed a lawsuit against the city during the summer after the 23-year-old mother said she experienced a “dehumanizing” arrest at the hands of Human Resources Administration (HRA) security guards and officers from the New York Police Department at a Brooklyn benefits office last year.

Ms Headley was visiting the office to enquire about her childcare benefits when she was told to stand in a crowded waiting room. The mother had reportedly been standing for hours, and eventually took a seat on the floor of the holding area, her one-year-old son resting in her arms.

That’s when the situation suddenly became hostile and turned into what would be described by a spokesperson for the mayor as an “injustice” that "should have never happened”.

Multiple security officials began to physically confront the young mother while she sat on the floor holding her child. A video of the incident showed one NYPD police officer repeatedly attempting to grab a hold of the baby, yanking at the infant and later pulling out a stun gun that she aimed at the onlookers.

Throughout the video, Ms Headley can be heard screaming: “They’re hurting my son! They’re hurting my son!”

Officials eventually managed to tear the mother apart from her child, dragging her out of the room and arresting her on charges of resisting arrest.

She then spent four nights and five days on Rikers Island, a maximum security jail complex the mayor recently announced would be shut down over the next decade. The charges against Ms Headley were later dismissed as Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said “this incident should have been handled differently”.

The mother testified about her experience at a City Council hearing in February, calling for more “social workers, not security officers” and receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

"I was just a number, a ticket, a problem, and I know each day, so many people have the same experience," Ms Headley said while crying, according to Gothamist.

She added: “It’s not just the fact that I was arrested. It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me ... In my case, I was just sitting. A peaceful act."

Following Ms Headley’s violent arrest, the commissioner of New York’s Social Services announced all “peace officers” working across the city would begin wearing body cameras. Both of the HRA security guards were also terminated from their positions.

Neither of the NYPD police officers involved in the arrest have received any form of official discipline, however, according to reports.

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