‘Unacceptable’

Woman seen in viral video having baby torn from her arms by police speaks out

Jazmine Headley. (Twitter / Spectrum News)

Jazmine Headley, the woman at the center of a viral video that showed police tearing her 1-year-old son out of her arms at a New York City welfare office, opened up to The New York Times about the incident.

Headley, 23, went to the public benefits office in Brooklyn because she wanted to find out why the city had stopped paying for the baby’s daycare costs. A series of frustrations ensued: after waiting more than two hours to be seen, she was told she would have to reapply for child care benefits, and would have to continue waiting at the office if she wanted to check the status of her cash allowance. Workers at a play area in the facility would not look after her baby, Damone, while she waited because he was not toilet trained. And because there were no available seats in the main waiting area, she sat down with the baby on the floor.

A security guard then approached Headley and told her to move because she was blocking a fire zone. Headley refused, and another security guard arrived on the scene. Headley asked to speak to a supervisor.

“I just remember being talked to very viciously,” Headley told the Times. “It was more or less: ‘You’re going to do what I say, and that’s it.’”

The police were called, and the interaction quickly escalated. As the Times recounted:

“Body-cameras worn by the officers recorded the guard telling Ms. Headley that if she did not leave she would be taken to central booking and the city’s child-welfare agency would take her son away, according to a person briefed on the matter.

“‘You’re a joke,’ Ms. Headley replied, then turned to go, according to the person who was briefed. The peace officer replied: ‘Really?’ then lunged at Ms. Headley and grabbed her arm, the person said, and ‘everyone tumbles down.’”

The viral video, which has been viewed more than a million times, shows Headley shrieking as officers try to pull the baby out of her arms. Two security guards who were involved in the altercation have been suspended, and Steven Banks, the city social services commissioner, has started the process of firing them. He called the incident “completely unacceptable.” Child endangerment and resisting arrest charges that had been filed against Headley were later dropped. She’d been detained for several days on unrelated credit card fraud charges in New Jersey, but was then released and reunited with her family.

For her part, Headley said she didn’t leave when the exchange with the guards started to grow heated because if she had, Damone “would not have the things that he needs.” In an interview with CBS News, Headley said she plans to sue the city over the incident.

To hear more about Headley’s ordeal, including her reaction to having seen the viral video, watch the interview below with Ashley Southall, one of The New York Times reporters who interviewed Headley.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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