New York, NY – The woman who bit a security officer and used her one-year-old son as a human shield as police attempted to remove her from a social services office in 2018 will receive a $625,000 payday from New York taxpayers.
Jazmine Headley, then 23, was wanted on an outstanding New Jersey warrant for failing to appear in connection with credit card theft when she went to the Human Resources Administration (HRA) office on Bergen Street on Dec. 7, 2018, to find out why her daycare vouchers had ceased, ABC News reported.
Headley’s mother, Jacqueline Jenkins, said that her daughter sat down on the floor inside the office because there were not enough chairs.
HRA security officers then told Headley she was blocking the hallway and that she could not sit there, but Headley refused to move, according to Jenkins.
“I’m not f--king moving from here," she responded, according to witness accounts published by the New York Post.
“At that point I went over to client Headley to see if I can persuade her to get up and have a seat. As I approached her, she was saying, 'Don’t f--king get close to me get out of my f--king face bitch,'” one incident report read. “Client Headley continued to her irate behavior and creating more scene.”
At that point, an HRA supervisor contacted New York Police Department (NYPD) for assistance.
When Headley saw the NYPD officers coming, she grabbed her son out of his stroller and used the toddler as a human shield, the New York Post reported.
The officers repeatedly asked Headley to leave the facility, “but she insisted on getting service” before she would go outside, according to an incident report.
“After a few more minutes of pleading with the female client to put the baby down and leave the facility, necessary actions were taken by the uniformed officers to detain her,” the report read.
Cell phone footage did not capture the events that led up to the altercation, but did show Headley lying on the floor with her son held to her chest.
“They’re hurting my son!” she screamed repeatedly, as a crowd of onlookers quickly assembled.
The officers tried to get the wailing baby to safety, but Headley refused to let go.
“As the NYPD officers were picking her up she began to flare up her arms. While resisting she put the baby between her legs in a tight grip. NYPD officers tried to get the baby off her but she was putting up a fight,” the report read.
Headley then kicked one of the security officers in the shoulder, and bit a second security officer on her left arm, the New York Post reported.
The officer who was bitten was subsequently transported to Methodist Hospital for treatment.
“She’s got her f--kin' baby in her hands!” one bystander yelled at the officers, as Headley laid on her back and raised her boots into the air.
One officer pulled out a Taser as the irate crowd moved in, although it was never deployed, police said.
Police were able to get the child away from Headley, and he was ultimately turned over to Jenkins by Child Protective Services, ABC News reported.
Headley was arrested and charged with committing an act in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, and criminal trespass.
A judge also issued a protection order against her, and barred her from having contact with her child.
Outrage spread throughout the community after the video was posted to social media.
“She Made The Security Guard Feel Dumb So She Called The Cops On Her & This Was The Outcome,” the video caption read. “Mind You She Had Her Baby In Her Hands The Whole Time…I'm So F--king Disgusted with The NYPD.”
Then-NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill defended his officers, but the same couldn't be said for the HRA officers.
HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said he was “deeply troubled” by the video, and that he had placed two HRA security officers involved in the altercation on a 30-day unpaid suspension before the investigation into the incident was complete.
Banks said that HRA staff needs to be better trained to de-escalate situations on their own before they contact NYPD for assistance.
"HRA centers must be safe havens for New Yorkers needing to access benefits to improve their lives," he added.
In the months that followed, 22 HRA security officers either resigned or were fired, The New York Times reported.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez later said he dismissed all charges against Headley “in the interest of justice,” according to the Associated Press.
"The consequences this young and desperate mother has already suffered as a result of this arrest far outweigh any conduct that may have led to it: she and her baby have been traumatized, she was jailed on an unrelated warrant and may face additional collateral consequences," Gonzalez explained.
Despite the fact that the charges were dropped and her public assistance benefits were restored, Headley pushed for more by filing a federal lawsuit against the city.
“By the end of the day, Ms. Headley had been humiliated, assaulted, physically injured, threatened with a Taser, brutally separated from her son, handcuffed, arrested, and jailed — all by employees of the City of New York,” the lawsuit read, according to The New York Times.
On Dec. 13, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office confirmed that the city has agreed to fork over $625,000 to Headley to settle the suit, The New York Times reported.
“Ms. Headley came to the city seeking help, and we failed to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved,” de Blasio’s spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie, said in a statement. “While this injustice should have never happened, it forced a reckoning with how we treat our most vulnerable.”
De Blasio also issued a public apology to Headley days after she assaulted the security officers.
“I want to apologize to her on behalf of all 8.6 million New Yorkers,” the mayor said, according to The New York Times. “What happened to Jazmine Headley and her son Damone should never have happened, should never happen to anybody.”
“It’s unbelievable to me that people who have the title ‘peace officer’ would do this to a woman and her baby,” he added. “I believe that by the time the NYPD arrived the situation was already out of hand and should not have been.”
New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said that the NYPD officers were in a no-win situation from the moment they responded to the brawl.
"These police officers were put in an impossible situation,” Lynch told ABC News. “They didn't create the dispute at the HRA office – as always, they were called in to deal with the inevitable fallout when the rest of our City government fails in its task.”
"The event would have unfolded much differently if those at the scene had simply complied with the officers' lawful orders," Lynch said.
"The immediate rush to condemn these officers leaves their fellow cops wondering: when confronted with a similar impossible scenario, what do you want us to do? The answer cannot be 'do nothing,’” he added.
Headley’s attorney, Katie Rosenfeld, said that Headley was simply standing up for “young women of color,” The New York Times reported.
“From Day 1, Ms. Headley insisted that this incident was not just about her, but about the dignity of every young woman of color raising her family with immense love and hard work, in a difficult world,” Rosenfeld declared.
Since the incident, the city has implemented mandatory de-escalation training for HRA security officers and is requiring them to wear bodycams.
“The steps that we said we would take that would mitigate the horrible things that happened to Ms. Headley have been taken,” City Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks told The New York Times on Friday.