The city of Philadelphia has reached a $2 million settlement with Rickia Young, a young Black mother whose toddler was used for police propaganda, her lawyers say, after she was violently ripped from her SUV alongside her 16-year-old nephew and beaten last year.
“I will not forget what those officers did to us that night,” Young said at a news conference Tuesday. “I hope that the officers responsible will never have the chance to do something like this to another person ever again.”
Young was driving home last October amid unrest in the city following the shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man whose family called for mental help and who police say was armed with a knife, when protesters surrounded her vehicle.
The 29-year-old mother stopped to avoid hitting them, Young’s lawyers said, when “suddenly and without warning,” a pack of Philadelphia police officers smashed the windows of her vehicle, then yanked both Young and her nephew into the street and beat them, “causing significant injuries.”
Video of the encounter recorded from a building down the street corroborates her account.
Young was taken to a hospital and held for hours, all while separated from her 2-year-old son, who was in the back seat of the SUV throughout the confrontation.
Soon after, a photo of a Philadelphia officer comforting Young’s son in her absence went viral, boosted by an inaccurate pro-police caption the National Fraternal Order of Police shared on social media.
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” the caption on the since-deleted post read. “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
Young’s lawyers say they’re planning to sue the National Fraternal Order of Police over the post.
“For them to portray me as the type of mom who wouldn’t know or care where her child was while chaos was happening all around is very hurtful,” Young said at the news conference.
She said the post served only “to promote a political message of fear of Black people and civil protesters,” adding that “the pain of seeing those images of my son in the arms of the officer and that horrible caption written to describe that picture may never heal.”
A spokesperson for the National Fraternal Order of Police didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. In a statement to USA Today at the time, the group blamed the caption on “conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer.”
According to CBS Philadelphia, two officers were fired after a review of the incident; 14 others are awaiting disciplinary hearings.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called the incident “appalling” in a statement on Tuesday and said he hoped the “settlement and investigations into the officers’ actions bring some measure of closure to Ms. Young and her family.”