Rickia Young, a woman caught in the middle of a Philadelphia protest and battered by police, was awarded $2 million in damages on Tuesday.
The incident occurred as she was picking up a family friend who was trying to get away from the protest, when police officers in North Philadelphia smashed the windows of her vehicle, pulled her out of the car, and beat her.
“It’s life-changing money for Rickia and her family,” said Rickia’s lawyer Kevin Mincey, “but what she went through was equally life-changing.”
After the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, by the police, protests in the city of Philadelphia erupted as officers set various barricades around the city. Accidentally finding herself within the boundary of one of these areas as she was picking up a 16-year-old family friend, Rickia Young inadvertently found herself at the mercy of officers dressed in full riot gear.
According to Rickia Young’s lawyers, she was not a part of the protest, and was simply picking up the the 16-year-old who was, “afraid of the growing tensions between the police and those protesting Mr. Wallace’s killing.”
“Suddenly and without warning,” her lawyers alleged, “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,” they claimed. “She was bruised and her face was bloodied.”
Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, said that the officers involved had, “violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department.”
After yanking Rikia Young, 26, from her car and letting her toddler run loose in the street, the Fraternal Order of Police’s national legislative liaison posted a since-deleted photo of the officers holding the toddler, claiming that they were out protecting children during protests.
The photo claimed that the toddler has been “lost” during the riots, and was wandering around barefoot when police found him. “The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting the child,” the photo’s caption read.
The post failed to point out that the toddler had been removed from the safety of its mother’s vehicle just before the photo was taken, which Rikia Young’s attorney’s called “propaganda.”
“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,” Commissioner Outlaw said. “As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned.”
The city awarded Rikia Young and her family the $2 million settlement, but many are also calling for the officers to be identified and removed from service. Rikia’s lawyers called for the near dozen officers involved to be fired from their posts and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“This terrible incident, which should have never happened to anyone, only further strained the relationship between the Police Department and our communities,” said Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney, calling Rikia Young’s experience, “absolutely appalling.”
“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,” Kinney continued. “I hope that the settlement and investigations into the officers’ actions bring some measure of closure to Ms. Young and her family.”
Philadelphia’s District Attorney Larry Krasner would not comment if there were any investigations into the officers’ conduct at the time.
“I will never forget what those officers did to us that night,” Rikia Young said. “I hope that the officers responsible will never have the chance to do something like to another person ever again.”