Jazmine Headley sat down for an interview with the New York Times on Sunday, her first since NYPD officers ripped her one-year-old son from her arms while arresting her at a public assistance office in Brooklyn.
“They never asked me my name,” Headley, who has had all charges dropped against her, told the paper. “They never said, ‘Hello, who are you?’ They never asked me.”
Headley, 23, was at a Brooklyn food stamp office on December 7 to reapply for benefits; after several hours of waiting, she got into an argument with a security guard who wouldn’t let her sit on the floor when there were no seats available. The guard called the police, who grabbed her arm as she tried to leave, knocked her to the ground, swarmed her, and ripped her baby from her arms while she called out, “They’re hurting my son!” Some of the incident was caught on video.
“I just remember being talked to very viciously,” Headley told the New York Times. “It was more or less: ‘You’re going to do what I say, and that’s it.”
“In my head, I told myself they’re not going to let me leave,” she said, adding that she went into “defense mode.” “I was so afraid. I was combative with my thoughts.”
Headley noted that it is not unusual for the NYPD and/or city workers to mistreat New Yorkers seeking social services, a fact confirmed by a number of reports, including a 2014 Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project report that found disorganization and maltreatment at public benefits offices were “designed to frustrate and deny New Yorkers in need.”
“It’s the story of many other people, it’s not just my story,” she said. “My story is the only one that made it to the surface.”
Headley plans to sue the city.