A recently released body cam video shows police officers in the city of Barstow, Calif. slamming a Black pregnant woman to the ground. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California obtained the footage of the incident in the midst of a settlement last week between the organization and the Barstow city administration in another similar case.
The incident between Barstow Police and Charlena Michelle Cooks took place last January after Cooks was dropping her second-grade daughter off to school. The police were responding to a traffic dispute between an unidentified white woman and Cooks. One of the officers approaches the white woman, who Cooks says was behaving in a “scared” fashion.
The officer tells the white woman that a crime didn’t take place and notes he’ll file a police report before speaking with Cooks. The officer approached Cooks and she told him that the woman was upset at her driving and issued threats. Cooks let the officer know she wasn’t sure why the woman called the police and asked was the dispute about the color of her skin.
Things go awry quickly when the officer asks for Cooks’ name, which she refuses to give. When Cooks questioned the officer’s right to that information, she asks to make a call. In a span of seconds as she’s calling an unknown person, the officer takes Cooks down by her wrist and slams her to the ground on her stomach despite her pleas of telling them they shouldn’t touch her.
Moments later, Cooks is forced to the ground and handcuffed while screaming at the top of her lungs. The officers then pick up Cooks and place her in the squad vehicle, where she continues to ask them to stop what they’re doing.
The ACLU conceded that while Cooks’ arrest was wrongful as she does have a right to refuse showing her ID, an officer might still proceed. Considering the racial tensions of late regarding police officers and communities of color, there was some speculation that race might have played a factor.
The case the ACLU settled involved two brothers who were arrested in Barstow in 2014 for failing to show ID to officers and were forcefully arrested. Cooks, telling local paper the Desert Dispatch that she now fears for her life and feels largely unwelcome in Barstow, has not said if she’ll pursue the matter further. Cooks delivered her baby back in March and says her daughter appears to be healthy.
Watch the full video of the traffic stop between Charlena Michelle Cooks and the Barstow police below. A WARNING: the video may be disturbing to some.