Philadelphia to Pay $2 Million to Woman Pulled From S.U.V. During Protest
“It’s life-changing money for Rickia and her family,” a lawyer for Rickia Young said. “But what she went through was equally life-changing.”,
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay $2 million to a young Black mother after police officers smashed the windows of the sport utility vehicle she was in, yanked her out and beat her after she inadvertently found herself in a police barricade last fall, the woman’s lawyers said on Tuesday.
The encounter happened as the woman, Rickia Young, was in the presence of her toddler and the 16-year-old son of a family friend who were also in the vehicle, said Kevin Mincey, one of the Ms. Young’s lawyers.
“It’s life-changing money for Rickia and her family,” Mr. Mincey said of the settlement in an interview. “But what she went through was equally life-changing.”
The episode occurred on Oct. 27, 2020, amid protests in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who the police said was armed with a knife.
Hours after Mr. Wallace’s killing on Oct. 26, in a cellphone video taken by a bystander, an S.U.V. is seen at a police barricade, and officers quickly surround the vehicle. Ms. Young, her lawyers say, was not part of the protest but had picked up the teenager, who was stuck in West Philadelphia and was “afraid of the growing tensions between the police and those protesting Mr. Wallace’s killing.”
When she started to head back home, the lawyers said, she found herself amid a large group of protesters and police officers, on a blocked-off Chestnut Street. She tried to make a U-turn but had to stop to avoid hitting protesters who began running by her vehicle, her lawyers said.
“Suddenly and without warning,” Riley Ross, another lawyer for Ms. Young, said at a news conference on Tuesday, “a pack of Philadelphia police officers wearing riot gear and wielding batons descended on the car, smashing multiple windows of the vehicle. The officers then violently yanked Ms. Young and her nephew from the vehicle and physically beat her, and him, in the street, causing significant injuries.”
She was bruised and her face was bloodied, Mr. Mincey said, adding that she had emotional distress, all of which was taken into consideration in the settlement.
Ms. Young’s lawyers also said that the national Fraternal Order of Police’s legislative liaison, in a since-deleted post, shared a photo of a police officer holding Ms. Young’s toddler just moments after she was arrested to show that the police were protecting a child wandering amid riots from harm.
Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, said in a statement on Tuesday that the behavior of some police officers involved in the encounter with Ms. Young “violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department.”
“As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned,” Ms. Outlaw said, “and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family and other members of the public.”
After an internal affairs investigation, two officers have been fired and 14 are awaiting disciplinary proceedings through the department’s Police Board of Inquiry, a city spokesman said.
A phone message left for the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing the officers involved in the matter, was not immediately answered on Tuesday night.
Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that what Ms. Young and those with her experienced was “absolutely appalling.”
“This terrible incident, which should have never happened to anyone, only further strained the relationship between the Police Department and our communities,” he said. “The officers’ inexcusable actions that evening prompted an immediate and thorough investigation of the incident and for personnel to be disciplined and held accountable for their egregious conduct.”
He added, “I hope that the settlement and investigations into the officers’ actions bring some measure of closure to Ms. Young and her family.”
Ms. Young, 29, and her lawyers also want criminal charges filed against the police officers involved.
“It’s clear criminal conduct — there’s no question about it,” Mr. Mincey said.
Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, said on Tuesday night: “It would be inappropriate under the law for us to comment on whether or not an investigation exists at this time. At a later time, we will have more to say.”
Speaking in general terms, Mr. Krasner said that cases like Ms. Young’s were complicated because they were chaotic and it could be hard to determine which officers were responsible for what actions, especially when they were all wearing the same clothing.
“When you’re dealing with that scenario and you have grainy cellphone footage that isn’t capturing the things you want to capture in a criminal investigation,” he said, “that is another difficulty.”