A Black mother who was attacked by a horde of Philadelphia police officers is speaking out about the harrowing experience. Rickia Young was driving an SUV with her 2-year-old son and teenage nephew on October 27 as the city was engulfed in protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. earlier that day. Officers descended on the vehicle, broke its windows, assaulted and arrested her and separated her from her child. Young’s arrest went viral due to a shocking video of the police swarming her vehicle, and after the National Fraternal Order of Police — the country’s largest police union — posted a photo of her 2-year-old on social media, falsely claiming he “was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness.” More than a month after the police attack, Rickia Young is demanding the officers involved be fired. “The police have not offered an explanation as to why they acted the way they did that night. They responded instead with a police investigation into Rickia,” says Kevin Mincey, Rickia Young’s attorney.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin with a horrific story. A warning to our listeners and viewers: The next segment contains graphic images and descriptions of police violence, as we go to Philadelphia, where a Black mother who was attacked with her family in October by a horde of police officers is speaking out about the harrowing experience.
Rickia Young was driving an SUV with her 2-year-old son and teenage nephew on October 27 as the city was engulfed in protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man having a mental health crisis, earlier that day. But Rickia Young didn’t yet know about that killing. She was just trying to get her nephew and son home when she took a turn down a one-way street, unknowingly driving straight into a throng of police in riot gear. As Young tried to turn the car around and leave the dangerous scene, the officers descended on her SUV, broke all its windows, and assaulted and arrested her.
This is Rickia Young in her own words, describing the attack to The Philadelphia Inquirer in a recently published video interview.
RICKIA YOUNG: Once I got close enough to see the cops, I stopped. Like, I stopped right there. I was trying to turn around. But it was like people came inside the street and was up there throwing stuff at the cops.
Next you know, the cops started charging, started running. My nephew was saying, “Lock the doors! Lock the doors!” because they was banging on the car, saying mean things: “Turn this F-ing car around!” and “Get out the F-ing car!” And they had yanked my door open. But by that time, they had busted the back window. They pulled me out the car, and they busted the other window.
I was up there yelling at them, like, “My son is in the car! My son is in the car!” And once they busted that window, they had woke him up. And they was up there, like, doing whatever they was doing to me, hitting me, throwing me, macing me. My son, the look on his face, he was petrified. Petrified.
AMY GOODMAN: Rickia Young was then separated from her 2-year-old child and held for hours. She described pleading with a police officer from the back of a police wagon.
RICKIA YOUNG: I was asking, like, “What’s going on?” like, you know, “Where’s my son? Where’s my son?” like screaming, like trying to find my son. The officer had the nerve to tell me, “He’s in a better place: DHS.” You can say anything you want about me, but calling me — like, saying something like that to me is an insult. They, as a whole, the Philadelphia Police Department, treated me as if I was an animal on the street. An animal don’t even deserve that.
AMY GOODMAN: After police assaulted Rickia Young, separated her from her child, a photo was taken of a female officer holding her toddler. The National Fraternal Order of Police — the nation’s largest police union — posted the photo on social media, falsely claiming, quote, “This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. … WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy,” unquote. The false post racked up thousands of shares before it was deleted amidst an outcry.
More than a month after the police attack, Rickia Young is still fighting for justice and demanding the officers involved be fired. She’s also trying to help her 2-year-old recover from the physical and emotional trauma of the assault. This is Rickia speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
RICKIA YOUNG: He is petrified. And he’s only 2 years old. My mom and my nephew asked him what happened. He was saying, ‘[bleep] car. [bleep] door. Open door,’ and up there banging his hand, like as if — like, you know, the cops was banging on the car. He just kept repeating it like he’s still trying to tell the story. Like, he acts out. He bite his nails. He pull his hair now. He never did those things before. He’s traumatized. He is going through something. He knows words, but, you know, he can’t express to me how he’s feeling.
AMY GOODMAN: Rickia’s little 2-year-old is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. When the police impounded her SUV, they did not have access to the hearing aids for weeks.
Well, for more on this disturbing police assault and what’s happened since that night on October 27th, we go to Philadelphia, where we’re joined by Kevin Mincey, Rickia Young’s attorney.
Kevin, welcome to Democracy Now! Thank you so much for joining us. It is such a horrific story. If you can tell us what the police explanation for this is, what they’re doing, and how Rickia is dealing with her child, who is so traumatized at this point?
KEVIN MINCEY: Yes, Amy. Good morning, and thank you for having me.
The police have not offered an explanation as to why they acted the way they did that night. They’ve responded instead with a police investigation into Rickia. They held her vehicle — first, after losing her vehicle, not knowing where it was for several days, according to what they told us. And when they finally recovered it three or four days later, none of her belongings were inside. The hearing aids were gone. Her purse, her wallet were gone. And the car had even more damage than when she last saw it after they had smashed out all the windows.
So, the police response has, quite frankly, been unsatisfactory, disappointing and really insulting to Ms. Young and her son, you know, because Ms. Young committed no crimes and had done nothing wrong that night.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Kevin Mincey, what do you understand from the police version is the reason why they stopped her in the first place? Clearly, she was just driving through, happened to be driving through the neighborhood.
KEVIN MINCEY: There has been no — there has been no explanation. The only thing that they’ve even tried to do is kind of workshop a story where they were going to accuse her of trying to assault a police officer. That was done after they had taken her into custody. When Rickia was in the hospital and being held at police headquarters, on her wristband it referenced assault on police.
But you can see from the videos that were taken that night that Rickia’s car never moved that night. When she came down Chestnut Street and started to turn and turn around, she stopped right there. She didn’t back up, because there were people behind her. There were people running towards her. She didn’t do anything to try and assault an officer. And that’s ultimately, I think, why they ultimately chose not to charge her criminally, because they had no evidence to support such a charge.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about how her family eventually found and were able to locate her child?
KEVIN MINCEY: Sure. Well, fortunately for Rickia, there were two young women who were in the paddy wagon with her that night, and one of the women still had her cellphone on her, incredibly. And so, Rickia was able to get the young lady to call her sister, and Rickia was able to tell her sister and her mother then what happened out there on 52nd Street that night. And then her mother and her sister went out to 52nd Street to question the police.
At first, the police acted as though they didn’t know what they were talking about. And eventually, they directed Rickia’s mother and sister to 15th Street, which is about four miles away from where all this happened — and 15th and JFK, to be exact, which is near where the Department of Human Services is here in Philadelphia.
And when they went down to 15th and JFK, Rickia’s mother found her son sitting in the backseat of a police car still in his car seat. And when she touched his hair, glass fell out of his hair. There was still glass from the car in the car seat. When I met them, maybe the next day, I looked at the car seat, and the glass was still there, large pieces of glass still in the car seat. The police were just allowing him to sit in that glass.
So, that’s a pretty harrowing experience for him, really traumatic for Rickia to go through. And even for Rickia’s mother and sister to kind of witness the aftermath of that was a — it’s been a traumatic experience for the entire family.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, explain what happened. How did the Fraternal Order of Police get this picture of a policewoman holding her child, acting like they were saving this 2-year-old?
KEVIN MINCEY: It’s unclear where they got it from. My understanding is that that picture was initially snapped by a photographer who was on the scene that night for a news organization. The National FOP then put it on their Facebook page.
And what’s really troubling is trying to understand where they got the story from, because they either got it from someone in Philadelphia who lied and said that they found this baby wandering on the street, or they made it up completely to support some type of narrative that they were trying to promote, where they just created a story about finding this baby wandering around in a, quote, “lawless” area of Philadelphia. Either way, they painted Rickia and her family in a false light, exposed her to negative comments on social media and abuse. And it’s something that we’re going to hold them accountable for.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Kevin, can you talk about the baby’s hearing aids? He’s hard of hearing. Her car was impounded. She wasn’t able to access his hearing aids for weeks?
KEVIN MINCEY: So, what happened was, the hearing aids were in the backseat when all of this happened. He didn’t have them in because he was asleep. When the police took Rickia from her car and her son and her nephew, the car was still sitting in the middle of Chestnut Street in between 52nd and 53rd. Somehow, the police lost the vehicle. They haven’t been able to explain to me why, for days, they didn’t know where the car was. I was calling every day trying to find out where the car was. “Do you have her hearing aids? Do you have her purse and her wallet?” It wasn’t ’til three or four days later that I was contacted by someone from Southwest Detectives to inform me that they had recovered the vehicle.
I can’t understand how if, when Rickia left that area, the car was surrounded by police officers, how they could somehow then lose it in the midst of all those officers that you can see in the video. So they basically either left her vehicle on the street unattended and allowed it to be stolen and then joyrode around the city until someone decided they didn’t want to drive around in it anymore, or they kept it for a number of days, were dishonest about where the vehicle was, and still have not returned the items that were inside of it. We don’t know the answers yet.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Also, could you put what happened to your client in the context of what was actually going on that night? It was a protest that had broken out in response to the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., who was shot while having a mental health crisis. Could you put that in context? And also, your assessment of the response so far of Mayor Kenney and the police commissioner of Philadelphia?
KEVIN MINCEY: Well, obviously, there was a lot of tension in the streets that night. This is seven or eight hours after the police have killed Mr. Wallace in that area of the city. And this is also after, maybe six months prior to that, they had tear-gassed the West Philadelphia neighborhoods and had tear-gassed and shot rubber bullets at protesters on Interstate 676 in Center City. So, the world was watching the police response that night in Philadelphia, in particular, just due to their past behavior in similar circumstances. And this is how they responded. Seven, eight hours later, they’re smashing the windows out of a single mom’s vehicle and dragging her away from her child and separating them.
And then, as far as the response from the mayor or the police commissioner, as far as I know, there has not been any. We have not heard anything from the mayor, from the police commissioner. We’ve had some informal conversations with some lawyers from the city, but no apologies, no acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Instead, like I said, the police initiated a criminal investigation into Rickia and her conduct that night. So, they’re still trying to justify — for some reason, still trying to justify this, these unlawful acts, and have yet to acknowledge that they were wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Kevin Mincey, can you talk more about how Rickia, her 2-year-old boy, her 16-year-old nephew, who she had simply gone to pick up that night, how they’re coping with the trauma that they’ve experienced?
KEVIN MINCEY: You know, it’s an extremely difficult thing to deal with. You go from being someone who was living their life almost in an anonymous fashion to now you’re streaming on everybody’s cellphone and computer and becoming the subject of internet debate and social media commentary.
Now let’s then set aside that part and then talk about the actual physical injuries that all of them suffered. Rickia’s son had a large welt on his head, when you look at some of the pictures that were posted online by the National FOP. She had internal injuries. Her nephew had broken bones in his hand. So, it’s a slow recovery from the physical injuries and even slower recovery from the emotional trauma that they’re going to be dealing with probably for the rest of their lives.
AMY GOODMAN: And your demands of the police?
KEVIN MINCEY: The officers need to be held accountable. I think there are up to five officers now who have been placed on desk duty. I saw way more than five officers either involved in the destruction of Rickia’s property or ignoring the conduct of the other officers and not stopping those officers from doing that. So, more officers need to be held accountable. I will join in Rickia’s request that the officers involved be fired. They certainly do not deserve to have the trust placed in them to protect and serve our communities.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Juan, you have covered issues of police brutality for years. Talk about what this reminds you of.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Amy, this is eerily reminiscent of a story that I uncovered actually almost 30 years ago. It’s amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same. This was back in 1991 in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn, New York. That was the riot supposedly touched off by a motorist, the killing of a young child, Gavin Cato, by a motorcade of a Hasidic rabbi that was passing through the Crown Heights neighborhood.
A few weeks after that riot, I got a call from a lawyer who said that his client had been arrested that night, the night of the Crown Heights riot, and he was an innocent motorist just driving through the neighborhood who happened onto President Street as he was trying to get home. And the police immediately converged on his vehicle, destroyed his — broke the windows of his car, dragged him out and beat him. And I said, “Are you sure? I haven’t heard anything about that.” And he said, “No, the Daily News, your newspaper, has a photo of my client, Pierre Regis, being arrested as a so-called rioter.” And he says, “I’m trying to identify the other police officers who actually were involved in beating him. So, you must have had a photographer on the scene.” And so, I said, “Well, look, you know, I can’t give you anything other than what’s already published in the paper, but I’ll check to see if there are any other photos in our photo library.”
And sure enough, because this is before smartphone videos, and this was still when film, when actual film, was being developed by photographers, before digital photos — and I found the reel of photos that involved this incident. But somehow, mysteriously, the key photos of the police beating this young Haitian American, Pierre Regis, were missing. Someone had gone into the Daily News photo library and pulled out the most incriminating photos. There were still, though, some photos left. And so, all I could tell the lawyer was, “Yes, I think there are some photos.” He eventually subpoenaed them and got the police civilian review board to subpoena them. And the upshot was that there was a trial in which I think Pierre Regis ended up being awarded over $3 million as a result of the injuries he sustained.
But it was the same story. He was labeled a rioter. He was just an innocent motorist passing through a neighborhood in the middle of a racial disturbance. And once again, the police turned the victim into a supposed criminal. So, it’s eerily reminiscent of what’s happened here to Rickia Young, but it happens so many times. And luckily, this time there appears that there will be some action taken, hopefully, by authorities.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank Kevin Mincey for joining us, the attorney for Rickia Young, the Black mother attacked in October by a horde of Philadelphia police officers, now calling for them to be fired. And, of course, we will continue to cover this.
Next up, we’re going to look at how the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft scored a major victory against worker rights with the passage of Prop 22 in California, how they’re now pushing similar measures across the country. This is Democracy Now! Thank you, Kevin Mincey. We’ll be back in a minute.