New York City will pay $625,000 to settle a lawsuit from a woman whose baby was violently pulled from her arms by police officers at a city facility, the city confirmed to CBS News. The incident, which occurred in December 2018, was caught on video and was widely viewed online.
In a statement, the city said it hoped the settlement would bring, 24, and her family "a degree of closure."
"Ms. Headley came to the city seeking help, and we failed to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved," the city said. While this injustice should have never happened, it forced a reckoning with how we treat our most vulnerable and prompted us to make reforms at HRA [Human Resources Administration] Centers across the city."
Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, which represented Headley, said they were "pleased" with the settlement.
"I am very pleased that Ms. Headley will receive a settlement that reflects both the harm that came to her and her son and an acknowledgement from the City of New York of the extent of their wrongdoing in this matter," Schreibersdorf said. "I hope that this recognition also results in changes to the way the city treats people who are trying to access the help and services they need and deserve."
Headley, 24, was arrested and spent four days in jail in December 2018 before Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez dropped charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, endangering the welfare of a child and trespassing.
Gonzalez said he was "horrified by the violence depicted in the video" and said the situation should have been handled differently.
Nyashia Ferguson, a witness, said a security officer confronted Headley, who had been sitting on the floor of the crowded city Human Resources Administration (HRA) office for hours because of a lack of chairs. Headley's family told CBS New York she had been waiting nearly four hours to renew daycare vouchers.
"The security guard, I guess she came over and told her she couldn't sit there. So she's like, 'Where am I going to sit?' She was like, 'I guess you're going to just have to stand.' She said, 'Well, I'm not going to stand with my son,'" Ferguson told CBS New York. "She was like, 'What is the crime? What did I do wrong?' And then it just escalated."
Police responded, and the woman ended up lying face-up on the floor during a tug of war over the child. At one point, an officer can be seen on the video pulling her stun gun and pointing it at people in the angry crowd.
Headley's lawsuit alleged that her child suffered physical, mental and other injuries and that Headley's name and image would forever be associated with that "traumatic and violent experience."
The video, posted to social media by an onlooker, caused a furor, spurring outrage from those who say it's indicative of how social service recipients are treated.