Deja Stallings gave birth to her first child, a girl named Dsyre, on the morning of Oct. 16. But that normally happy occasion was marred when the child went into distress with an elevated heart rate. Two weeks before Stallings’s daughter was born, her mother told Yahoo News, she had been the victim of police brutality. Stallings, a Black woman nine months pregnant, was thrown to the ground on Sept. 30 during an altercation with police in Kansas City, Mo. That incident, according to Stallings’s lawyer Stacy Shaw, is the reason that Dsyre ended up in intensive care.
The night of the incident, people were gathered outside a gas station in downtown Kansas City to commemorate the life of a recent murder victim.
“[The police] came down there twice … harassing us,” Stallings, 25, told Yahoo News. “Then they left and came back again, saying [one man] was trespassing.”
Shortly after their second visit, officers began to break up the crowd and attempted to arrest a man they accused of trespassing. During the attempt, Stallings allegedly intervened.
“I was out there like everybody else trying to record [on her phone] and the officer pushed me,” said Stallings. “When he pushed me, I told him, ‘Don’t push me, because you don’t have the right to push me.’ He said, ‘You effing going to jail.’ That’s when he threw me down on my stomach and put his knee in my back.”
The Kansas City Police Department accused Stallings of “hindering and interfering” with law enforcement, according to a statement from the department sent to Yahoo News.
“Police gave the woman and man several verbal warnings to leave, but they continued to physically interfere by attempting to pull the suspect away from officers,” Officer Doaa El-Ashkar wrote. “One of the assisting officers then attempted to place her under arrest for hindering and interfering. The officer attempted to do this while she was standing, but she continued to physically resist arrest, at which point he placed her on the ground to effect the arrest. Then she was handcuffed, turned to her side and immediately placed in a seated position.”
A video shot at the scene, which has since gone viral, shows only a portion of the arrest. In the footage, an officer is seen tussling with Stallings, who has been brought to the ground, twisting her arm and placing his knee on her lower back as onlookers plead with the officers, telling them Stallings is nine months pregnant.
Additional video shows @kcpolice twisting 9 months pregnant woman’s arm and AGGRESSIVELY kneeling on her back Wednesday. #retweet #Blacklivesmatter #BlackTwitter #BREAKING @cnnbrk @TorontoStar @washingtonpost @ABC @CoriBush @RealDLHughley @nytimes @KCStar @GMA @IAMJADEJACKSON pic.twitter.com/GfagDnSmX3
— Attorney Stacy Shaw (@StacyShawLaw) October 2, 2020
For many people who have viewed the video, the episode was reminiscent of what happened to George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis who was held down by several officers, including one seen on video kneeling on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd died as a result.
Stallings received a citation for hindering arrest, but she disputes police claims that she tried to pull the suspect away as police sought to arrest him. The name of the officer in the video has not been released, but he remains on duty and hasn’t faced any punitive action.
“We are not naming that officer,” Jacob Becchina of KCPD told a local Fox affiliate. “The officer is currently … on full duty. There’s no restrictions or anything like that.”
Prosecutors confirmed last week that they’re also looking into the matter, and KCPD said it is remaining “cooperative with the prosecutor’s office.”
In response to the lack of disciplinary action for the officer involved in the incident, protesters have been occupying the grounds of City Hall for the past 14 days and plan to continue to do so until Police Chief Rick Smith either resigns or is fired. Civil rights groups allege that Kansas City’s police department is plagued by racism. Protesters are also calling for the termination of the officer involved in Stallings’s arrest as well as a reallocation of 50 percent of the police budget to safe housing, mental health and public education.
City Councilman Eric Bunch spoke in support of the protesters at a rally for Stallings last Thursday. Bunch said he would push the council to take the necessary action to “completely reimagine what public safety means.”
“Police kill people and they won’t do anything about it. This continues to happen and no one knows who the officers are until someone does the equivalent of dropping off an unmarked note with the information.”
He added that the Kansas City Police Department’s $272 million budget this year is more than the combined budgets of parks, health, neighborhood services, indigent medical care and housing and homeless services.
“We literally do not have the money to support the vital health care and quality-of-life issues precisely because we have resigned ourselves to a reality in which law enforcement is the only tool to address these complex issues,” he said.
Shaw said that unless the police are held accountable, incidents like this will continue to happen.
“We want to hold the police officer and KCPD accountable through the court of law for what happened to Deja,” said Shaw. “We are pushing for the police revision of their use-of-force policy to include pregnant women … and we are looking to have budget revisions to end this cycle of violence.”
Shaw believes there are deep-rooted issues within the KCPD and said that the officer who arrested Stallings is the second officer in the department who has previously killed someone only to be let back out into the community to hurt someone else.
One of the officers Shaw is referencing is Kansas City Police Officer Dylan Pifer, who killed 30-year-old Terrance Bridges, a Black man, in May 2019. Pifer was not indicted by a grand jury for the killing, and he returned to active duty just nine days after the shooting.
Six months later, Pifer was involved in an incident in which he was accused of aggressively handcuffing a 15-year-old Black teenager and restraining him while his partner, Sgt. Matthew Neal, slammed the boy’s face into the ground, breaking his teeth and causing him to need stitches.
Shaw identified the officer who arrested Stallings as Blayne Newton, a man Shaw says was responsible for the killing of Donnie Sanders, a 47-year-old Black man, in March. Newton was not punished for the shooting and returned to active duty shortly afterward.
“We have a ton of police killings in this community,” said Shaw. “Police kill people and they won’t do anything about it. This continues to happen and no one knows who the officers are until someone does the equivalent of dropping off an unmarked note with the information.”
Stallings said she continues to have frequent medical visits stemming from the arrest. Her blood pressure is high and her bones ache, she told Yahoo News. At last week’s rally she struggled to walk from the car to the steps of City Hall to say a few words because of the pain she feels. Loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help her pay for medical bills and therapy.