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Officer Accused of Yanking Mother From S.U.V. During Protest Is Charged

Officer Accused of Yanking Mother From S.U.V. During Protest Is Charged

April 21, 2022

The authorities said that Darren Kardos, 42, who has been charged with aggravated assault, pulled a young Black mother out of a vehicle by her hair in October 2020 after she inadvertently found herself near a police barricade during a protest in Philadelphia.

A former Philadelphia police officer has been arrested and charged for his role in the assault of a young Black mother who was yanked out of her vehicle after she inadvertently found herself near a police barricade during a protest in October 2020, the city’s district attorney said Thursday.

The former officer, Darren Kardos, 42, was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief among other charges, according to Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney.

In an interview, Mr. Krasner said that the charges, the product of a complex investigation of a chaotic scene, were an important step in the city’s effort to restore trust in the justice system and demonstrate that it is “even handed.”

“The law applies equally to people in uniform and people who are not in uniform,” he said, declining to say if the investigation was continuing.

Mr. Kardos could not immediately be reached late Thursday, and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has represented officers involved in the matter, declined to comment about the arrest. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison on the most serious count.

The encounter on Oct. 27, 2020, happened as the woman, Rickia Young, was with her toddler and the 16-year-old son of a family friend in a sport-utility vehicle, according to Ms. Young’s lawyers. In September, city officials agreed to pay $2 million to Ms. Young, who was bruised and bloodied in the beating, her lawyers said.

The episode occurred amid protests in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who the police said was armed with a knife.

Hours after Mr. Wallace’s killing on Oct. 26, 2020, in a cellphone video taken by a bystander, an S.U.V. is seen at a police barricade, and officers quickly surround the vehicle. Ms. Young, her lawyers say, was not part of the protest but had picked up the teenager, who was stuck in West Philadelphia and was “afraid of the growing tensions between the police and those protesting Mr. Wallace’s killing.”

When she started to head back home, the lawyers said, she found herself amid a large group of protesters and police officers, on a blocked-off Chestnut Street. She tried to make a U-turn but had to stop to avoid hitting protesters who began running by her vehicle, her lawyers said.

“Suddenly and without warning,” Riley Ross, a lawyer for Ms. Young, said at a news conference in September, “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.”

According to a statement from the district attorney, Mr. Kardos is accused of pulling Ms. Young out of her sport utility vehicle by her hair, “after which she was struck by fists, batons and a number of unknown objects.” Ms. Young was never charged.

After an internal affairs investigation, two officers — including Mr. Kardos — were fired and 14 were awaiting disciplinary proceedings through the department’s Police Board of Inquiry, a city spokesman said in September. The Philadelphia police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Appearing at a news conference via Zoom on Thursday, Ms. Young said that she now gets nervous and scared every time there’s a police officer in a car behind her. She had a message for Mr. Kardos: “You could have talked to me. I’m very easy to talk to. What you did to me, what you did to me in front of my son, was not acceptable.”

“I don’t wish this on my worst enemy,” she added. “Dealing with this has so far been one of the hardest things I had to do in life.”

A lawyer for Ms. Young, Thomas Fitzpatrick, said that the charges were “a step in the right direction” and added that a civil lawsuit against the Fraternal Order of Police was still pending.

Ms. Young’s lawyers in September filed the case in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas against the national group for a since-deleted social media post it made that stated the child was “wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness.” The post, which showed an officer hugging the child, stated, “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”

“We are not your enemy,” it continued. “We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”

Ms. Young’s lawyers called the post “political propaganda.” On Thursday, Mr. Krasner, the district attorney, called it “really awful, false and arguably racist.”

“The mother was brutalized,” he said. “The child was traumatized. The mother did not know where the child was for hours.”

The national Fraternal Order of Police chapter could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday.

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