A Brooklyn mother was released from Rikers Island Tuesday night, her attorneys said, four days after she was arrested during an incident with NYPD officers who forcibly removed her 1-year-old son from her arms inside a government office.
The encounter on Friday between Jazmine Headley, NYPD officers and Human Resources Administration peace officers at the Fort Greene Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Center was caught on video and widely shared on social media over the weekend.
“Jazmine Headley has been released from Rikers and our Jail Services Social Worker is driving her home to her family. We ask that everyone please respect her privacy. Thank you all for your support and advocacy!” Brooklyn Defender Services, which is representing her in the case, tweeted just after 8:45 p.m.
The charges against Headley were dismissed earlier Tuesday by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who said he was "horrified" by the video of the incident. Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Craig Walker then granted a motion to have Headley released on her own recognizance.
In dismissing the charges, Gonzalez said it was clear that officers and staff with the Human Resources Administration, which operates the center, should have handled the situation differently.
“An HRA officer escalated the situation as Ms. Headley was about to leave the premises, creating an awful scenario of a baby being torn from his mother,” Gonzalez said. “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.”
In the video, police officers can be seen trying to remove Headley’s son, Damone Buckman, from her arms as she lay in a fetal position on the floor.
Headley can be heard repeatedly screaming, “You’re hurting my son,” over the noise of the crowd. At one point, a police officer pulled out a Taser as Headley continued to struggle against the officers, the video shows. The Taser was not deployed during the incident.
Toward the end of the video, which was just over 2 minutes long, officers separate Headley from Damone and place her in handcuffs.
Headley refused medical attention at the scene for herself and Damone, police said. The child’s grandmother Jacqueline Jenkins said she took Damone to a doctor to be sure he was not injured after he was placed in her custody on Friday.
Headley had faced charges of resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and criminal trespass, according to the NYPD.
The incident sparked outrage among New Yorkers and elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Adams, who said the incident was a “blemish” on the city, had called on Monday for the charges to be dropped.
Echoing the borough president’s sentiments, Gonzalez said Tuesday that pursuing the case wouldn’t “serve any purpose.”
“Discretion is the better part of valor, and we must be thoughtful and compassionate in evaluating the merit of our cases,” the district attorney added.
Headley had been waiting at the center on Bergen Street for about four hours in an effort to resolve an issue related to child-care services, according to Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director and founder of Brooklyn Defender Services. Holding Damone in her arms, Headley sat on the floor in the corner while she waited and was confronted by a security guard who told her she couldn’t sit there, Schreibersdorf added.
When Headley refused to get up and leave, the NYPD was called to escort her from the building, officials said.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who called the video “troubling” and “disturbing,” said the situation was escalated by peace officers working for the HRA, who brought Headley to the ground after she refused to leave the center. NYPD officers then tried to arrest her, but she refused to comply.
The peace officers involved in the altercation were placed on leave and were expected to be placed on modified duty upon their return until the investigation is complete, HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said Monday.
“HRA centers must be safe havens for New Yorkers needing to access benefits to improve their lives. I am deeply troubled by the incident and a thorough review was launched over the weekend to get to the bottom of what happened,” Banks said.
Headley appeared in a New Jersey court Wednesday morning to face charges stemming from an unrelated misdemeanor credit card crime. She was issued a pretrial intervention that allowed her to avoid pleading guilty, according to her attorneys. All charges will be dismissed and expunged after 36 months or as early as six months, they said.
"Jazmine is satisfied with this outcome and gratified the case is resolved and behind her," Brooklyn Defender Services tweeted.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by Brooklyn Defender Services raised over $31,000 in one day. The funds will be used to help pay for child care and other expenses, per the nonprofit.