‘You’re Hitting My Head! Help!’: California Woman Filming Arrest In Her Own Yard Is Left with Scars After Police Manhandle Her for Obstruction; Federal Lawsuit Follows

A California mother and daughter have filed a lawsuit against police officers for excessive force.

Mariah Hereford and her mother Monet Hereford said Hemet Police violently arrested them and Mariah’s fiancé in front of their home while her children watched. The incident was captured on video and also witnessed by neighbors.

“Help! Help! You’re hitting my head! Help!” Mariah screamed and cried in cellphone video.

The Hereford’s attorney said an officer grabbed Mariah by the hair and repeatedly slammed her head on the ground. The officer hooked his fingers underneath the woman’s jaw and yanked her, attorney Toni Jaramilla said. The incident left Mariah with a concussion, bruises and a scar.

Mariah Hereford has a permanent scar after Hemet Police officers slammed her head on the ground. (Photo courtesy of Toni Jaramilla)

Mariah and her mother said they were recording Hemet police officers as they arrested her fiancé when officers knocked their phones out of their hands and grabbed the women.

Cellphone video captured the officers as they wrestled with family pets while Hereford’s four children cried and screamed. Hemet Police Chief Eddie Pust said the older woman refused to back away when asked. Body camera video shows that the officers were confronting the younger woman about car keys when they arrested her.

Attorneys said Ryan Gadison was on his way home from work last March when two Hemet Gang Enforcement officers followed him in his 2020 Dodge Challenger. They flagged him in his driveway.

Mariah, Monet and the children, who are between the ages of 3 and 9, met Gadison outside. Police officials said Gadison repeatedly honked his horn.

Gadison told the officers he was nervous because of the “stereotype” about interactions between Black men and white police officers, video shows. The officer tells Gadison, he is “misinformed.”

The body camera video shows the officer told Gadison that his license was suspended and ordered him to put down his keys and wallet down and get out of the car. The officer also asked for permission to search Gadison’s car. Gadison refused, the video shows.

“Can you get a little closer and record this guy,” Gadison said as he motioned to the women.

“I am recording,” the officer said in the video.

Gadison threw the keys out of his window. Police said he threw it in the same direction as the women.

The attorneys said officers targeted Gadison because he was “driving while Black” in a “nice” car. Cellphone video shows Gadison was pinned to the car and arrested. The attorneys said the police searched his car but nothing illegal was found.

Cellphone video show officers approached Mariah Hereford’s 54-year-old mother and told her to “back up” and “move” as she filmed the arrest.

When the video panned away, an officer knocked the cellphone to the ground and “threw her against the vehicle and tightly handcuffed her,” the family’s attorneys allege. Video from Mariah Hereford’s phone shows the arrest, and police body camera video also confirmed.

Pust said the women were getting in “close proximity to the officers.” Body camera video showed the exchange between officers and the mother and daughter before Monet Hereford was arrested.

“I am going to take both of you to jail if you don’t back up,” an officer said.

“For what?” Both of the women asked.

“For obstructing an arrest,” the officer said.

“I am asking a question,” one of the women said off camera.

A handcuffed Gadison told Mariah to stand by the dogs that were chained closer to the house as one of the officers attempted to pull him away to the squad car, the body camera video shows. He also instructed one of the women to close his car door and lock it.

The attorneys allege that a male officer searched the older woman by grabbing and probing between her legs and groin area, even though a female officer was present.

“This case is just atrocious,” Jaramilla said. “They had an absolute right to videotape what was happening, and that was what caused them to get angry and retaliate and violate their rights when they were doing that.”

Mariah Hereford backed away from the car after her mother’s arrest and stood near the dogs. Officers approached her, the video shows. In the cellphone footage, she can be heard screaming “back up,” “let go of me,” as her phone appears to hit the ground. The cellphone video went dark, but the phone still captured the audio.

Police body camera shows one of the dogs bit an officer as he charged at Hereford. Another officer pulled the dog off from the back of its collar, and Hereford tried to grab the dog from officers.

“Rocky! Rocky! Let go, Rocky!” Hereford said.

The body camera video showed Mariah Hereford continued to reach for the dog as officers continued to pull it away.

“Let go of the key now,” an officer said.

“I don’t have the key. Get out of my face,” Hereford said. She placed one hand up and another officer grabbed the other.

“Shut your f—ing mouth,” an officer said.

“No, you shut your f—ing mouth,” Hereford said.

Body worn camera shows the officers tackled the woman. The children’s screams and cries overpowered the sound of an active car alarm. Hereford let out several screeches and cries for help. At one point, she told police officers that they hit her head. The entire scuffle was not caught on video.

“Stop! Just give them what they want! Just give them what they want,” one of the children said. The voice stretches over all the other noise. “Please! Stop! Leave her alone! Leave her alone!”

The Herefords have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Hemet and its officers and are seeking damages for violation of rights, trespassing, wrongful arrests and imprisonment, emotional distress, assault and battery.

The attorneys said Gadison and Monett Hereford were each arrested for obstructing arrest, a misdemeanor. Mariah Hereford was arrested for resisting a peace officer resulting in injury, a felony, but no actual charges were filed against anyone.

“The fight against injustice and violence against women is also about law enforcement needlessly violating women for sport,” Jaramilla said. “Nothing about Mariah and Monett Hereford was a threat to these officers or justified the brutality these officers inflicted on a mother and grandmother.”

Jaramilla said Americans have a constitutional right to record law enforcement officers protected under the First Amendment.

Federal case law states: Americans have “a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties.”

“We should all do that because oftentimes, these videos are what’s going to be the key to achieving justice,” Jaramilla said.

The Hemet Police Department did not respond to requests for comment, but the chief released a video statement with body camera footage on March 14.

“The Hemet Police Department takes claims of excessive use of force or misconduct very seriously,” Pust said. “We believe it is important to be transparent and provide factual information to the public as soon as possible to uphold department accountability, maintain trust within the community.

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