Young woman files lawsuit against BPD


Lizette Chavez

Tatyana Hargrove prepares to leave with her lawyers as her press conference comes to an close.

Megan Fenwick, Social Media Editor

A press conference was held at the legal office of Chain Cohn Stiles at 11 a.m. on Aug. 30 to announce that Tatyana Hargrove filed a claim against the City of Bakersfield following her encounter with police this summer. It was on June 18 that Hargrove, a 19-year-old African American woman, was riding her bicycle home in southwest Bakersfield after searching for a Father’s Day present and was stopped by police who were looking for a male suspect wanted for assault with a deadly weapon.

According to Hargrove’s lawyers, the officers asked to see Hargrove’s backpack and she asked if they had a warrant. The officers then claimed that they did not need a warrant and Hargrove eventually handed her backpack over because she was afraid of the K-9 dog with the officers. When an officer took the bag from her, he tripped and Hargrove fell against him.

Hargrove says that the officer then punched her in the face and held her to the ground with his knees on her back. The police dog then proceeded to attack Hargrove’s right leg. She was then arrested and it was only then that the police asked for her name and discovered that Hargrove was a woman.

The police assert that a different version of events took place. The officers claim they mistook Hargrove, who is 5 feet 2 inches tall and 120 pounds and has short braided hair, for the male suspect, an African American man who was described as approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and 160 pounds with a shaved head and a goatee. In the arrest report written by officer Christopher Moore, the first person to see Hargrove, it is stated that she attempted to flee on her bicycle after Moore pulled a gun on her and ordered her to put her hands on her head. When officer Vasquez arrived as back up, Moore retrieved his K-9 partner for his vehicle. Moore warned Hargrove to comply or risk getting bit, and claims she set her backpack down and put her hands up but did not get off of her bike, and Vasquez proceeded to approach her.

Moore’s report then says, “Senior Officer Vasquez grabbed onto her hands to gain control of her as she spun into him with her left shoulder. This sudden movement caused Senior Officer Vasquez’ feet to come off the ground and he fell to his back… Hargrove landed on top of him on her back and quickly turned over on top of Senior Officer Vasquez in a mounting position.”

Vasquez then punched Hargrove and pushed her off of him, but she managed to get back on top of him. This is when Moore decided to let his K-9 dog attack Hargrove’s leg and were then able to subdue and arrest her. All charges against Hargrove have since been dropped by the Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green due to insufficient evidence that Hargrove committed a crime.

“Part of the reason that we are filing this claim … against the officers is because there has to be accountability for these types of things. And the District Attorney is not going to prosecute these officers for what happened with Tatyana. So how is there going to be accountability? That’s where we step in,” said Neil K. Gehlawat, who, along with Thomas Seabaugh, is Hargrove’s attorney.

“The time will tell: are they going to hold officers within their own department accountable to send a message to other officers that if you don’t comply with policies and procedures, and if you deviate from norms, that there will be consequences. But if there are no consequences to the officer, what kinds of messages does that send to other officers within the department? That these things will be brushed under the rug? That they’ll be looked over?” said Gehlawat. However, he isn’t hopeful that the officers involved will face prosecution from the district attorney. “I think that there is virtually a zero percent chance that the district attorney’s office is going to prosecute any of the officers in connection with this incident. The only person that they were ever contemplating prosecuting is sitting right in front of you, and that’s the sad thing about this case,” he said, referring to Hargrove. Hargrove and her legal team hope that this lawsuit will provide some measure of accountability and compensation for her suffering.

“What happened to me is like … it was just vicious. It changed me… My friends tell me I’m different,” Hargrove said, before she began to cry. “I hope and I pray this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

“Physically, I’m still in pain every day … I’m very paranoid,” said Hargrove during the press conference. “I don’t like my parents to leave the garage up, open. Doors have to be locked. Windows have to be closed. You know, when you grow up, and officers come to your school, they tell you, ‘you can count on us, you can count on us’ and they turn around and they just violate you, and your rights, it’s just the worst thing ever.”