A Philadelphia Police officer was pulled from street duties this week and is under an internal affairs investigation after attorneys say a woman was thrown from her car, beaten, detained and separated from her child while trying to drive home during protests and unrest Tuesday.
Attorneys for Rickia Young say Philly cops broke her car windows with batons, struck her several times, and pulled her 2-year-old son and 16-year-old nephew from a vehicle she was driving near protesters and police this week.
Before 2 a.m. Tuesday, Young, a 28-year-old home health care worker, left her home near Temple University in her sister's SUV to go pick up her nephew, who was with friends in West Philadelphia and needed a ride home.
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The city was in a second day of unrest that included marching peaceful protesters and looting from others after officers shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr. Monday. (Since then, Wallace's family and the city agreed to publicly release on Nov. 4 the police body camera footage that shows the officers' perspectives of the incident, which was also seen on social media video.)
When Young was trying to get home early Tuesday, the National Guard had not yet arrived in Philadelphia to protect businesses during looting and unrest. It was mere hours after Wallace was killed Monday afternoon and police were all over, monitoring protests and responding to looting, including along 52nd Street.
That's where Young, who tried to take her usual route home from West Philly, was at the wheel when she encountered "a standoff between the officers at 52nd Street...and the different protesters and whoever else was out there in confrontation with the police," attorney Kevin Mincey said.
Mincey said police on 52nd Street ordered Young to turn back. She began backing up to make a K-turn.
The officers then "swarmed her car," Mincey said, using their batons to break the windows before opening the door and pulling Young from the vehicle. They struck Young and the teenage nephew before detaining her and holding the 2-year-old.
Young has swelling on her face and body, a swollen trachea and was bleeding.
Mincey said officers told Young her son was going to be taken "to a better place." Young was placed in the back of a police vehicle with a juvenile who had a cell phone. Young used that person's phone to call her mother, who is the 2-year-old's grandmother, attorneys said.
The grandmother went to 52nd Street and asked for her daughter and grandson, but he wasn't there. The grandmother eventually found the boy about four miles away near City Hall, in the back of a police vehicle with officers in the front seat. The 2-year-old was in his car seat, without his hearing aids and with broken glass shards in the car seat.
Young spent the night between police headquarters and Jefferson University Hospital, where she received treatment under officer supervision. Later, she was released with no charges filed.
Young's purse, wallet and her son's hearing aids were in the vehicle, which has not been located.
"That car we assume, has been destroyed...We do not know where the car is. Police have not attempted to inform us where the car may be recovered," Mincey said.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters Friday that an officer who struck the vehicle was placed on restricted duty during the internal affairs investigation. That began after a reporter asked her about a viral video, filmed from a rooftop, that captured officers hitting Young. The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to witnesses including a resident who filmed the video.
"With this case and any other allegations that have since arisen, you know, we take all of this seriously," Outlaw said Friday. "My expectation is that these investigations are done in a fair and timely manner."
Social Media Perceptions
Attorney Riley Ross was critical of the National Fraternal Order of Police, which made a viral Facebook post that later spread to other police social media pages. The post, since removed, showed a female officer holding Young's son, who was characterized as a child officers found abandoned and barefoot during "complete lawlessness" on the street. Ross said that post mischaracterized the incident.
"They're implying that a community of people were out and about, running past a 2-year-old child that was out at 1:30 in the morning barefoot and didn't care about them. And the police were the only ones who cared," Ross said. "When in fact, the police were the only ones who put this child in danger. They traumatized his mother, smashed in the car windows, pulled her out, assaulted her. They traumatized the child's nephew, smashed in the windows, pulled him out, assaulted him. And they traumatized this child, by keeping this child away from his mother."
National FOP spokesperson Jessica Cahill told NBC10 "the National FOP 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."
Social media rumors also cast Young and her nephew as looters or participants in the unrest that night. Attorneys said that wasn't true.
"There was no looting on the part of Ms. Young or anyone that was in her vehicle. Not the 16-year-old, and certainly not the 2-year-old," attorney Thomas Fitzpatrick said.
Young, who is recovering from her injuries and had to bury a family member, was not at a press conference her attorneys held Friday. The lawyers have asked for a public apology from the city and police force, and anticipate compensation in some form. They said they were prepared to take it to court if necessary.
"We fully expect that there will be some kind of compensation paid to this family. However, what's important for us all to understand is that as citizens of Philadelphia and citizens of a community, we can not stand by idly and watch people be victimized and beaten by the police," Fitzpatrick said.
"We have to stand up and we have to say enough is enough, who the hell do they think they are? We are not going to let this continue."