BC students take action against BPD
Two wrongfully arrested BC students have filed a lawsuit
February 1, 2017
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Just as last semester was coming to a close, Bakersfield College students Xavier Hines and Timothy Grismore were arrested and taken into custody by police on their way to get some food. The on-duty officers used aggressive force to detain them.
A little under a month later, the Bakersfield Police Department was said to have been made aware of a video posted on Facebook by Hines and Grismore about the events that took place that night.
Hines and Grismore do not have their own methods of transportation, so they mainly walk to get around, whether that be to Taco Bell or the grocery store. On the night of Dec. 5, they were doing just that. The two of them were taking a break from studying for finals, and went walking to go get some Taco Bell.
As they continued to walk on Valhalla Drive, an unmarked car flashed their lights at them as they drove past, and then later made a U-turn and pulled the two men over.
The officers made accusations that these two men were up to gang activity because they were walking around at night, and also due to the area they were in. The officers also requested their names.
Hines and Grismore both asked why they were being questioned, as they didn’t realize they were speaking to police officers.
“Once we asked why, they started running at us, and they told me to put my hands up,” Grismore said.
“They were searching us and we kept telling them you don’t have a warrant, so you’re not allowed to search us. They kept searching us anyway,” Hines said.
As the officers where aggressively searching Hines and Grismore, they asked Grismore to unbuckle his hands, and from there Grismore states that the officer threw him on to the ground. The officer told him to get onto his stomach after he hit him in the chin with his elbow.
During this altercation, four more cars arrived from opposite directions of the street. Police officers got out, one of which approached Hines, who was seated on the cement, and pointed his baton at him to tell him, “Stay seated boy, unless you want to get beaten too.”
Two officers then went to Grismore and started beating him in the legs with their batons. This would eventually result in Grismore suffering from multiple bruises, and stitches on his chin, the inside of his mouth, and on the back of his leg.
He was not able to get treatment for his injuries for what he recalls as “two to three hours.” All of this happened while Hines was still sitting on the sidewalk just a few feet away.
Although Hines was arrested without an incident, he was charged with jay-walking and resisting arrest. He was brought downtown to jail to be held.
“When the lady was putting in my information about the arrest, she told [the officer] that they could not hold me on these charges,” Hines said. “He said hold on so he could go add resisting arrest to it.” Resisting arrest would ultimately lead to him being detained in jail that night up until being released at 2 a.m. the next morning.
With no transportation, Hines was forced to walk from the county building to his house near West High. Even with the previous night event, Hines made it to school to take the final he had been studying for the night before.
“Yeah, I went to school that day and I took my final. I ended up getting an A on it,” he said.
He states that when all this happened he was still in shock and disbelief that this had really happened to him and his friend the night before. He came to this realization after taking his final.
The Bakersfield District Attorney Lisa Green dropped the charges against the two men, and said that there was no reason for these two men to be arrested and detained for jaywalking. This has led to an internal investigation of the police officers involved and the practices that had taken place that night. After the DA Green’s ruling, Hines’s father contacted the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) who have been supporting and helping represent the two young men. NAACP President Patrick Jackson, as well as the other members of the community have assisted the two young men by bringing the event to light and spreading the word.
On Jan. 25, a City Council meeting was held in which Hines, Grismore, Jackson, and many concerned members of the community gathered to express their feelings, disbelief, and desire for the council to take a stand.
At the City Council Meeting, Jackson proposed some ideas that he feels would help prevent things like this from happening.
“Approve the budget of body cameras. What happened to these two men probably would not have happened if that budget had been approved. Also, put forth an effective citizen’s police union. Other cities have adapted this concept, and I feel it would be an effective item to place on your agenda. That would help improve the police issues that we’ve been having in our community.”
At the meeting Hines and Grismore reinforced that they too would like the City Council to place body cameras on their agenda.
“I feel like the use of body cameras would help out a lot,” Hines said. “We are at the city council meeting tonight to try and change some the policies the police department may have. Because this could happen at any time to anybody, anywhere. And that’s the main thing we learned from it–that they can do anything they want to anybody they want. It can happen right now.”
On Jan. 25, the law firm of Chain Cohn Stiles hosted a press conference to announce the filing of government claims for wrongful arrest, excessive force, and racial profiling against the city of Bakersfield and the BPD on behalf of Hines and Grismore.
“There was no reason whatsoever for these two young men to be stopped, let alone assaulted and detained overnight,” Said Neil K Gehlwat, the attorney for Hines and Grismore. “But perhaps what is most troubling is that the actions of these officers that night appeared to be racially motivated. The officers did what they did because they believed that Timothy and Xavier were affiliated with a gang-conclusion. We feel they reached [that conclusion] only because the two young men were black.”
This lawsuit is currently underway with hopes of a positive outcome. Hines and Grismore most importantly want to make people aware of the injustice they faced, and help prevent it from happening to others.