Philadelphia police pulled a woman from an SUV during unrest in West Philadelphia Tuesday morning, beat and bloodied her, separated her from her toddler for hours, and kept her in handcuffs in the hospital, her attorneys said Friday.
She has not been charged with a crime, and police won’t say what prompted the show of force.
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Philadelphia civil rights attorneys Kevin Mincey and Riley H. Ross III are representing the woman and the toddler, who they said were both injured as police pulled them from an SUV shown in a now-viral video from the 5200 block of Chestnut Street at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. The video depicts at least 15 police officers swarming a vehicle, bashing in the windows, pulling out the driver and another passenger, beating them, then appearing to remove a child from the backseat.
The attorneys intend to file a civil rights case against the Police Department on behalf of the woman, 28-year-old Rickia Young, a home health-care aide who lives near Temple University, and her 2-year-old.
Mincey said both are now home and tending to injuries. The toddler was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for “a large welt on his head,” he said, and Young had a bloody nose, a swollen trachea, blood in her urine, and swelling and pain on her left side.
Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs opened an investigation into the incident, and Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Friday one officer seen in the video “using the strikes against the car” has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of the investigation.
“I still don’t know all of the details, but I will tell you after reviewing the video ... what I saw, it was quite concerning," Outlaw said. "But I’m very careful about what I say, because I do not know all of the circumstances around it.”
Thomas Fitzpatrick, a partner at the firm representing Young, said he could say “without equivocation” that no one in the vehicle took part in looting or “riotous behavior.”
Mincey said Young was struggling to get her child to fall asleep, and, hoping a car ride would help, she took the toddler with her to West Philadelphia to pick up her 16-year-old nephew from a friend’s house as unrest roiled the neighborhood. Mincey said Young encountered police barricades and attempted to make a three-point turn when police surrounded the vehicle.
Then, he said, police pulled Young and the 16-year-old from the car and threw them to the ground; police beat both with batons, handcuffed them, and detained them, he said. Mincey said Young relayed that police at the scene refused to tell her where her child would be taken, saying only “he’s gonna go to a better place, we’re gonna report it to DHS," presumably referring to the Department of Human Services, the city’s child-welfare agency.
Mincey said officers then put Young in a police van “unsecured” and transported her to Police Headquarters at Seventh and Race Streets. He said her head and face were bleeding, and police then transported her to Jefferson University Hospital for medical treatment, where officers stood watch and she was handcuffed.
Police then took her back to headquarters and processed her. Mincey said she was kept in a holding cell, wasn’t informed of charges against her, and was issued a wristband that read: “assault on police.” She was released without being charged. Mincey said she’s unsure what time she was released, but she said “the sun was up.”
Young and her son were separated for hours. Mincey said Young was in the police van with another woman who had a cell phone. Young called her mother, Mincey said, and the boy’s grandmother went to the scene to retrieve the child. There, according to Mincey, police directed her to go to 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, four miles away in Center City. The grandmother, Mincey said, found the child sitting in his car seat in a police cruiser with two officers. The child had a lump on his head and glass from the SUV’s broken windows was still in his car seat, Mincey said.
Mincey said police have not told the family where their vehicle is, and he said the child’s hearing aid and Young’s purse and wallet are still inside it.
He said Young and the toddler are traumatized.
“Every time she sees a police officer the last couple days, she’s worried that they’re coming for her,” he said. “Her son, even though he is hearing impaired and still developing his speech, is definitely showing some signs of trauma.”
Ross also slammed the National Fraternal Order of Police for on Thursday posting images of an officer holding the child and falsely writing in a caption: “This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
The child was the same one pulled from the SUV, according to images shot at the scene by an Inquirer photographer and a freelance photographer in the area. The Inquirer is not publishing images of the toddler out of concern for the privacy of the family and the child.
The FOP deleted the posts about 30 minutes after the Inquirer asked for comment. On Friday, an FOP spokesperson said after posting the photo, the organization “subsequently learned of conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer and immediately took the photo and caption down.”
Ross said the post had “racial over- and undertones.”
“It’s truly unbelievable and unimaginable that this is all happening at the hands of people that are sworn to protect,” he said, “and are now trying to falsely tell us that they are the only ones that can protect us.”
The video of the incident was shot less than 12 hours after two Philadelphia police officers shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who family and neighbors said was experiencing a mental health crisis. Video of his killing showed him holding a knife and walking toward police when they opened fire, each firing seven shots.
Wallace was killed in the afternoon on the 6100 block of Locust Street in West Philadelphia, a neighborhood that has long experienced police brutality and had a fraught relationship with law enforcement. The killing took place about three blocks from where police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house in 1985 and killed 11 people in the most notorious example of police brutality in the city’s history.
Unrest ensued after the killing and boiled over along the 52nd Street corridor late Monday into early Tuesday. Crowds formed and torched a police vehicle, lit trash on fire, burglarized stores, and vandalized public and private property. Someone driving a pickup truck struck an officer, who was hospitalized, and police said 30 others were injured.
Over two days of unrest, dozens of people citywide were arrested, many charged with burglary after police said they broke into stores and stole merchandise.
Despite the unrest, Fitzpatrick said Philadelphians must not “stand by idly and watch people be victimized and beaten by the police.”
“Enough is enough. Who the hell do they think they are?” he said. “We are not going to let this continue.”