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A line of Philadelphia police officers at 1 a.m. on Oct. 27, the first night of protests over Walter Wallace Jr.'s death.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Philadelphia police pulled a woman from her SUV during protests in West Philadelphia, beat her, and separated her from her child for hours last week. The woman has not been charged with a crime and police remain silent on what prompted the violence.

Caught on a now-viral video taken at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 27, at least 15 police officers swarmed the SUV, bashed in its windows, pulled out and beat the woman and another passenger, and then appeared to remove a toddler from the car’s backseat. The incident took place blocks away from where Philadelphia police shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr. on Monday evening, prompting protests near Penn’s campus and nearby neighborhoods. 

Police later shared a photo of the toddler with an inaccurate caption that claimed they had found the child wandering the streets after having gotten lost amid the protesting.

Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs has since opened an investigation into the incident and one officer seen in the video has been placed on restricted duty pending the investigation’s outcome, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw announced on Friday. 

Philadelphia civil rights attorneys Kevin Mincey and Riley H. Ross III plan to file a civil rights case against the Philadelphia Police Department on behalf of the woman, 28-year-old Rickia Young, a home health-care aide who lives near Temple University, and her 2-year-old child. Both are now home and tending to their injuries, Mincey told the Inquirer.

Young had a bloody nose, a swollen trachea, blood in her urine, and swelling and pain on her left side, according to the Inquirer. The toddler was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a large welt on his head. 

Thomas Fitzpatrick, a partner at the firm representing Young, told the Inquirer that no passenger in the SUV took part in looting or “riotous behavior.” As the Walter Wallace Jr. protests swept through the city Monday night, Young took her child with her to West Philadelphia to pick up her 16-year-old nephew from a friend’s house. Mincey told the Inquirer that police surrounded Young’s vehicle when she encountered police barricades and attempted to make a three-point turn. 

Police officers then pulled Young and the teenager from the car and beat both with batons, handcuffed them, and detained them, the Inquirer reported. Police refused to tell Young where her toddler would be taken, only saying that “he’s gonna go to a better place, we’re gonna report it to DHS," presumably referring to the city’s Department of Human Services. 

Young, whose head and face were bleeding according to Mincey, was taken to Police Headquarters at 7th and Race streets and then to Jefferson University Hospital for medical treatment, where she remained handcuffed. She was then taken back to the headquarters and processed, but was not informed of charges made against her according to the Inquirer. Issued a wristband stating “assault on police,” Young was released in the morning without being charged. 

Young and her son were separated for hours, and Mincey told the Inquirer that police have not yet told the family where their SUV is. 

“Every time she sees a police officer the last couple days, she’s worried that they’re coming for her,” Mincey told the Inquirer. “Her son, even though he is hearing impaired and still developing his speech, is definitely showing some signs of trauma.”

The video was taken about 10 hours after two Philadelphia police officers shot and killed Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, on 61st and Locust streets. Each officer fired seven shots, the Inquirer reported. Police say Wallace Jr. was armed with a knife and has a history of mental health problems, including bipolar disorder. Wallace Jr.'s family had called 911 for an ambulance earlier that day to help manage his unstable mental condition, the Inquirer reported.

Protests, many attended by Penn students, have since roiled West Philadelphia. Many members of the Penn community have called for the defunding of private police departments — including Philadelphia and Penn police — since the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this summer, citing ongoing violence committed by officers against Black men and women.