After a video depicting New York police officers pulling a one year-old child from his mother's arms went viral over the weekend, the public gathered to help. A GoFundMe for Jazmine Headley, the woman in the video, is collecting money to help pay for childcare, according to its description, so that Headley can return to work upon her release from Rikers Island.
The woman who posted the viral video to Facebook, Nyashia Ferguson, told The Washington Post that the conflict started when Headley sat down on the floor at the Human Resources Administration office in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, where people can apply for public assistance. There were no more seats available in the room, Ferguson told reporters, and when security officials told Headley that she had to stand, she refused. When police arrived, Headler resisted their directions, and the conflict escalated.
After the altercation in the video, Headley was charged with a series of misdemeanors, including resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration, and criminal trespass, according to The Post. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced in a statement on Tuesday that his office would be dropping all charges against Headley, noting that "continuing to pursue this case will not serve any purpose."
“Like everyone who watched the arrest of Jazmine Headley, I was horrified by the violence depicted in the video and immediately opened an investigation into this case," Gonzalez said in his statement. He added that "the consequences this young and desperate mother has already suffered as a result of this arrest far outweigh any conduct that may have led to it: she and her baby have been traumatized, she was jailed on an unrelated warrant and may face additional collateral consequences."
After the video circulated on social media, critics weighed in, including many high-profile New York figures. "This is unacceptable, appalling and heart breaking," tweeted Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker. "I’d like to understand what transpired and how these officers or the NYPD justifies this. It’s hard to watch this video."
State Attorney General-elect Letitia James, who is currently New York City’s public advocate, condemned the contents of the video in a statement released to Facebook. She called for involved law enforcement officials to be placed on desk duty while the incident is investigated, writing:
Being poor is not a crime. The actions of the NYPD in this video are appalling and contemptible. A full investigation must be conducted immediately, and the results should be made public so there is a transparent accounting of how this horrific situation occurred. All involved officers, including the assigned supervisor, should be assigned desk duty pending the investigation results. No mother should have to experience the trauma and humiliation we all witnessed in this video.
Although Gonzalez announced that his office would be dropping charges, on Tuesday afternoon, it was not immediately clear when Headley would be released. It was equally unclear whether the officers involved in the altercation would face any consequences for how the event transpired.
"This was a disturbing incident," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Monday. "Like anyone who’s watched this video, I have a lot of questions about how this was handled. NYPD & HRA will get to the bottom of what happened."