A mother whose child was yanked from her arms during a violent tussle inside a New York City benefits office last year has been awarded a hefty settlement from the city.
The New York Daily News and other outlets report Jazmine Headley received a $625,000 settlement on Dec. 13 after suing the city, Human Resources Administration peace officers and the NYPD over the December 2018 incident. The ordeal was caught on video, showing officers rip Headley’s then-1-year-old son from her arms as she sat on the floor of a crowded HRA office in Brooklyn.
“My son and I were unreasonably assaulted by untrained and undertrained HRA security officers and police officers,” Headley, said after filing her complaint in August. “I’m taking action so this experience doesn’t fester and infect our lives, work, relationships and health.”
The young mother was jailed at Rikers Island on unrelated charges in the days following her viral arrest, but the charges were dropped and she was later released and reunited with her little boy, Damone. Recalling the incident, Headley said she remembered the peace officers talking to her “very viciously.”
“It was more or less: ‘You’re going to do what I say, and that’s it,” she told the Daily News at the time.
The Dec. 7 incident unfolded when Headley took off work to go to visit the Boerum Hill HRA office after her baby’s child care benefits were cut off, leaving her unable to put him in daycare. Witnesses said Headley, 23, was forced to sit on the floor, as the office was packed that day and there were no more available seats.
That’s when a security officer approached and demanded she gets up. She refused, however, and things escalated from there.
Peace officers reportedly tried to reason with Headley for several minutes before NYPD officers showed up and a tussle ensued. In a bystander video, an officer is seen trying to wrest the young boy from her arms as she loudly protests.
“They’re hurting my son! They’re hurting my son!” Headley yelled as police tugged the toddler away.
The officers involved were initially placed on modified duty. However, an investigation by the department determined they did nothing wrong and likely wouldn’t face punishment.
Though the experience is over, Headley said it has had a lasting impact on both her and her son. In her lawsuit, she described how Damone showed a change in behaviour after the incident, becoming more withdrawn and experiencing separation anxiety, among other issues.
The mother said she hoped her suit would effect change and address the negative stigma surrounding those who receive public assistance.
“I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve done what I had to do,” Headley told the New York City Council earlier this year. “It felt like no one cared about me or what I had to say. It felt like I was just a number, a ticket, a problem,”
“It’s not just the fact that I was arrested,” she added. “It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me.”