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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

‘Absolutely disgusting’: Brooklyn baby wrenched from mom

Damone with his grandmother on Monday.

Damone with his grandmother on Monday. Photo Credit: AMNY/Mark Chiusano

One-year-old Damone Buckman toddled energetically around his grandmother’s Bed-Stuy apartment Monday morning, playing with a roll of paper towels. Things were peaceful. His grandmother changed his diaper. There was a tall stack of wrapped Christmas presents under the Christmas tree (a basketball and cars, don’t tell Damone). A full chest of well-thumbed toys and books.

It was a different scene than Friday, when he’d been wrapped up in his mother’s arms while multiple police officers tried to yank him away — a scene captured on a video that went viral over the weekend. In the video, watchers can be heard yelling “Oh my god” and an officer can be seen pointing a stun gun at the crowd and at Damone’s mother.

That was at a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program office on Bergen Street in Brooklyn. Damone’s mother, Jazmine Headley, had gone there to figure out what was going on with her voucher for child care, which seemed to have run out. Headley, 23, had to take time off from her job for a housecleaning company, says Jacqueline Jenkins, her mother. Headley called Jenkins when she got to the social services office sometime around 9 a.m. The next call Jenkins got was in the afternoon: She had to hustle down to a precinct in Brooklyn to pick up Damone. Damone’s mother was headed to Rikers Island.

What happened?

Waiting for social services in New York can be an “all day process,” says Jenkins, 50. You wait for your number to be called, trying to stay near the front so you can hear. It certainly looked like it would be all day for Headley, who was waiting in the crowded Bergen Street office for hours. Some observers said there weren’t enough chairs. At a certain point, a tired Headley sat on the floor with Damone.

This major infraction apparently got the attention of security guards. Maybe some snippy words went back and forth, Jenkins isn’t exactly sure, but NYPD officers were called, and things quickly escalated. Headley refused to leave and refused to comply with officers’ orders, says an NYPD spokeswoman. She was placed under arrest.

Such procedural words don’t paint a complete picture of what ensued, which was a wrestling match with Headley on her side and back, yelling, “They’re hurting my son,” one officer yanking away furiously as if there’s a baby to save at the bottom of a well. But it’s just Damone.

Jenkins says she took Damone to a doctor to make sure he wasn’t physically injured during the experience. No bruises — he was ok. But she says he keeps getting “fussy” without his mother. She has been weaning him off breast-feeding, says Jenkins, so there’s that. And Monday morning was day three without Headley, who was still being held in jail due to a warrant from New Jersey reportedly for a credit card misdemeanor crime.

To Jenkins, it was frustrating to see people questioning her daughter’s mothering from the Friday event alone. It’s Headley’s firstborn, and Jenkins called her something of a health nut, plenty of fruits and vegetables. A certificate from LaGuardia Community College hangs on the wall in their apartment — Headley had taken classes there and wanted to study to be a psychologist. They come from a family of caregivers — Jenkins had been a preschool teacher, she said, and the whole incident began with Headley trying to straighten out day care for her son.

That chore ended painfully, with police officers failing to de-escalate the situation as seen in the video, which the police spokeswoman on Sunday called “troubling.”

Jenkins says her daughter has a court date on Thursday, and once she’s out she may have to stay with a relative elsewhere while Jenkins cares for Damone. That’s because one of Headley’s charges was “acting in a manner injurious to a child.”

Meanwhile, some city politicians are calling for an investigation into how security and NYPD officers had acted on Friday.

“It’s absolutely disgusting how they handled her,” says Jenkins.

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