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National News

Secret Service Officers Pointed Guns at Two Black Moms with Their Kids in DC

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Secret Service Officers Pointed Guns at Two Black Moms with Their Kids in DC

2020-08-04 17:19:24

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Fountains at World War II Memorial (Image source: Melizabethi123 via Wikimedia Commons)

Two black women were confronted by Secret Service officers with guns when they were in their car with their two infants. This incident happened after they took a swim in the fountains at the World War II memorial. They, along with their attorney, are now looking for answers.

Best friends since junior high school, India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston packed up their infants — ages six months and 13 months — and drove to the Mall. On the way back, they were sitting in the car, the infants in the back seat. The car was rammed into, but the two mothers didn't see it, as they were digging around in their diaper bags.

The women believe the Secret Service officers' car drove across the centerline of Constitution Avenue and rammed the front bumper of Johnson's Ford Focus on the driver's side.

A uniformed Secret Service officer pointed a rifle at them and demanded they get out of the car and put their hands in the air. More officers joined in, also bearing guns. The officers also did not wear masks at first.

Johnson got out of the car and asked why they were being detained. She told the officer where to find her documents regarding ownership of her car, etc. Winston, seated, held her hands to the roof of the car. An officer with a rifled pointed it at her head. She begged him not to shoot her baby.

They were both handcuffed, and neither was read her Miranda rights. The babies cried in the back seat throughout the 45-minute encounter. The mothers worried the babies would overheat. Winston asked if she could breastfeed her little boy and was ignored. "No one wants to hear their kid cry," she said.

An officer called an ambulance to check on the babies, and the women were released from the cuffs and were able to be with their babies again. A bystander told them that the officers searched Johnson's car.

Winston asked for the officers' business cards, but they replied they don't carry them. She got paper and pen and wrote down all the names and badge numbers.

"I had to stay strong; somebody had to be strong. I wanted to cry, but I'm not going to them see me cry," she said. "The fact that our kids had to witness this? Nobody wants to introduce their kids to this."

They want answers now. "For this to randomly just happen," offered Johnson, "it's really traumatizing."

"This incident took place near our national monuments across from the White House," Timothy Maloney, the women's attorney, wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray. They're demanding an investigation.

"It occurred after eight weeks of unprecedented national demonstrations about excessive police conduct, some of which took place right there on Constitution Avenue. Has the Secret Service learned nothing this summer?"

A Secret Service spokesperson confirmed in a statement that they had received a "query requesting the agency investigate an alleged interaction between Uniformed Division Officers and two members of the public." The statement also indicated they were "looking into the matter."

Maloney said he and his clients are prepared to ask for a congressional inquiry if they are not provided with answers soon. He requested that the Secret Service publicly release details of the incident, including why it started. They want to see the incident report and body camera footage. They'd like the officers involved suspended as well.

Winston said she and her friend have spent he days since being cuffed at gunpoint and separated from their babies paranoid and traumatized. She's seeking therapy, and Johnson is afraid to drive alone and doesn't like to leave the house. 

They still don't know why they were targeted. "I could have been another Breonna Taylor," said Winston. "I could have been another innocent woman who has no record and got shot."

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