A video of the ensuing struggle went viral, prompting apologies from the Brooklyn D.A. and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New York City will pay over a half-million dollars to settle a lawsuit filed by Jazmine Headley, whose toddler was violently taken away from her by local law enforcement.
Footage of the encounter, which took place in December 2018, was widely circulated online. In it, Headley—who was waiting in line at a benefits office—can be seen clutching her child on the ground. After a brief struggle, New York police officers “ripped the toddler from her arms”
Headley filed her lawsuit in August, alleging trauma and humiliation by the NYPD. Her case moved before the city council in February, where she provided testimony and was offered a public apology.
And, late last week, Headley’s complaint finally reached a resolution.
“Through her intelligence, bravery and grace, Jazmine Headley turned the worst ordeal of her life—and of any parent’s—into an opportunity for change for the entire city,” said Headley’s attorneys, Katherine Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.
Headley, adds The Associated Press, was approached by law enforcement after arguing with a security guard at a Brooklyn benefits office. Essence.com’s reportage suggests that Headley had simply wanted to apply for a food assistance program. But a facility guard turned her away before calling police.
When Headley declined to cooperate with officers, they tried to pull her 18-month old son away from her. Footage of the struggle shows Headley underneath four to five New York police officers.
Headley—now 24 years old—was arrested. She spent four days in a city jail before Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez decided to drop the charges against her, which included obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child.
Gonzalez, to his credit, publicly spoke out against the NYPD’s callous disregard for the toddler. In a statement, he said he was “horrified by the violence depicted in the video” and said the situation could’ve and should’ve been handled differently.
Headley also received a swift apology from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Writing shortly after footage of Headley’s arrest when viral, de Blasio decried the situation as “unacceptable.”
“What happened to Jazmine Headley last week at the HRA facility was disturbing and unacceptable,” de Blasio tweeted. “It shouldn’t have happened to her or anyone. We are conducting a thorough investigation, but on behalf of the City of New York, I want to apologize to Ms. Headley and her family.”
Friday’s settlement will see New York pay $625,000 to Headley. Her attorneys said in a statement that the lawsuit “was not just about her, but about the dignity of every young woman of color raising her family with immense love and hard work, in a difficult world.”
The Associated Press notes that Headley, at the time of her arrest, was facing charges in New Jersey for credit card fraud. Those charges were dismissed shortly before she initiated her lawsuit against New York.