Michelle Cooks now has a healthy baby girl. But, back in January, when she was tackled by police officers in her older daughter’s school parking lot because she refused to provide her full name, Michelle said she was sure cops “killed my baby.”
“[I was treated] like an animal, like a monster, like I didn’t exist, like I was not human,” Michelle, 29, told CNN this week. “This is not an issue I wanted. I was just dropping my child off at school for the day.”
Cops in Barstow, Calif., responded to the school when another woman reported Michelle threw something at the side of her car. In the police body camera that captured the whole encounter, the officer told the caller she didn’t have a case because there wasn’t any damage to her vehicle.
The officer then spoke to Michelle, who started to tell her side of the story. When the officer tried to ask for her name, Michelle refused to provide her last name. The state of California has since confirmed people in similar situations have the rights to withhold their identities.
Michelle then tried to make a call to her boyfriend. The officer said he would give her two minutes on the phone, but interrupted her after about 20 seconds by grabbing her arm. Another officer got involved at that point.
“Don’t touch me, don’t touch me,” she said. “I’m pregnant, do not touch me.”
The officers forced her against a fence and then to the ground. They handcuffed her with her face and stomach pressed against the ground.
“She ended up on the ground and on her belly. She couldn’t use her hands to break her fall, and she was unable to pick herself up afterwards,” the ACLU said. “The ACLU has long advocated restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women. It’s a terrible idea to handcuff a pregnant woman behind her back. This video shows why.”
Michelle was charged with resisting arrest, but the charge was later dismissed. After the ACLU publicized the video of Michelle’s arrest this week, the city denied claims the incident was racially motivated.
“It is apparent that Ms. Cook actively resisted arrest,” the city said in a statement. “Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.”
The police department launched an internal investigation this week. Regardless of that outcome, Michelle said she no longer feels safe in the community.
“I’m really scared,” she told CNN. “I’m trying to move out of Barstow now, like tomorrow.”