The Black woman seen struggling with a Chicago police officer attempting to restrain her after she was walking on the city’s lakefront last month after it had closed is speaking out for the first time.
Nikkita Brown told ABC news on Thursday that she feared she might not walk away from the encounter.
“I thought I was gonna die. I thought he was going to kill me,” Brown said. “I had it in my mid that I was going to be shot.”
Just after midnight on Aug. 28, Brown was walking her dog on North Avenue Beach after it had closed at 11 p.m.
Brown’s attorney Keenan Saulter said Brown was walking out of Lincoln Park when the confrontation began after the officer asked her to leave because the beach was closed.
“I knew if he got me on the floor, I would be dead,” she said.
Video shot by Brown shows the officer stepping out of a patrol car without a mask.
“Please, respect my space. It’s COVID,” Brown said, backing away. According to Brown, the officer moved closer and was aggressive from the beginning of the encounter.
According to a statement from Brown’s attorneys, Brown told the officer she was leaving. Bystander footage shows Brown walking away from the officer as he follows her. The two appear to be speaking to each other, although their words are not audible. Her attorneys report that Brown told the policeman she was leaving and asked him to remain distant because he was not wearing a mask, which he refused.
Brown told ABC she tried to make a phone call during the encounter so that even if no one answered and she just left a voicemail, they would know where she was and what was happening and know that if they hadn’t heard from her she was “in jail or worse.”
The officer then apparently grabbed for the phone and the two struggled over the device as Brown screamed before it fell to the ground. The struggle lasted about two minutes and Brown’s shoes were also knocked off during the encounter as she held onto her dog’s leash the entire time. The officer held Brown’s hands behind her back and appeared to be speaking to her, until eventually the two separated and Brown walked away.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has obtained video of the encounter and is conducting an investigation.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has seen the video and “was quite disturbed” by the footage.
The officer has not yet been identified, however, details were uncovered by a local news station about his disciplinary record.
TV station CBS Chicago, citing sources inside the CPD, reports he is a member of Chicago Police Department Traffic Unit, and assigned to the north portion of DuSable Lake Shore Drive. His responsibilities include enforcing DUI and speed limit laws, and it is unknown why he would have been at North Avenue Beach at the time of the incident.
That station says records show the office has faced 24 misconduct allegations since joining the force in 1998 and that three were sustained, resulting in discipline.
If COPA determines the officer violated policy, a disciplinary recommendation will be sent to Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown. If he disagrees with the recommendation the matter will be escalated to the Chicago Police Board. The officer is currently on desk duty.
Brown said other people walking on the beach who were white were not confronted, and she believes she was targeted because she’s Black.
“Black women walking after hours, I guess I looked suspicious,” she said.