A North Carolina woman plans to take legal action against a local police department after an encounter with officers left her bloodied and bruised.
Cellphone video obtained by Atlanta Black Star from Ja’Lana Dunlap-Banks’ attorney shows part of the incident with Fayetteville Police officers on Sept. 6. One officer removed her seatbelt while the other tried to drag Dunlap-Banks from the vehicle by her wrist.
“She pretty much yanked me out the car, was holding my wrist very tightly squeezing it,” Dunlap-Banks, 22, told reporters. “She tried to tussle me for my phone because I was recording at the time to stop my video recording.”
The 110-pound woman who suffers from sickle cell said she recorded the incident for her safety. She didn’t want to “end up like George Floyd.”
Dunlap-Banks was in an empty lot taking photos for her employer when the patrol car pulled up. Her attorney, Harry Daniels, told Atlanta Black Star the ordeal left his client with a head injury and swollen wrist.
“Ms. Ja’Lana was doing her job working, doing her duties for that day,” Daniels said.
The company Dunlap-Banks worked for hired someone to clean up the property, and she went to the site to make sure the illegally dumped trash was removed. She had just sat back in her car and was about to start the ignition, she said when the officers approached and questioned her presence on the property.
Chief Gina V. Hawkins said Dunlap-Banks was about a half mile from a scene “where a potentially violent suspect fled from police.”
The video shows a female officer asking Dunlap-Banks to present her photo identification card. Both officers said they asked the woman to get out of the vehicle numerous times. Dunlap-Banks said she had given the officers her name, and the card was in a clear fanny pack fastened around her waist where the officers could see.
At one point in the video, she refuses to give the officers the photo identification that’s in the bag. Daniels said Dunlap-Banks was not obligated to give the officers her identification.
“You’re not getting it because I haven’t did anything wrong,” she told the officers.
The one-minute video starts with the female officer pulling the woman’s hand from outside the vehicle.
“Please stop,” Dunlap-Banks told the female officer in the video.
“Stop resisting,” the officer replied.
“I am not resi—you got me,” Dunlap-Banks said.
“Don’t drag me out,” she added.
“You need to get out of the car, then,” the officer replied.
“If you let me, I will,” Dunlap-Banks replied.
The officers eventually released Dunlap-Banks’s hand and allowed her to step out of the vehicle. Dunlap-Banks said the officers never told her why she was being detained.
“They threw me up against the trunk of my car, put me in handcuffs and then she proceeded to take off my fanny pack and go through it to get my ID out, and then throw it back in the car,” she said.
Dunlap-Banks said she then found herself surrounded by about six officers and about four different unmarked cars on the scene. Hawkins said that after the officers confirmed Dunlap-Banks was not involved in the fugitive situation, she was released.
“I understand why the cell phone video of a Fayetteville Police Department encounter with Ms. Ja’Lana Dunlap causes concern and the desire of the public to know more. That’s why I am making a request to the Superior Court Judge for the release of body-worn camera footage for this incident,” the police chief said. “We will ensure that the investigation already in process is expedited by the Internal Affairs Unit.”
Dunlap-Banks and her attorney plan to sue the police department. Daniels believes the officers “overreached their power” and “bullied” his client because she was a young, Black woman.
“They took an intimidation approach against her to try to bully her into submission,” Daniels told Atlanta Black Star.
The attorney said a scan of local police blogs did not indicate a fugitive was in the area. He also said the police department had not provided a description of the suspect they were after.
“So we don’t know the veracity or truthfulness of that statement,” Daniels said.
Dunlap-Banks has quit her job because of anxiety from the ordeal. Daniels added that anxiety triggers pain and fatigue in people with sickle-cell disease. Her condition also intensified the pain she felt as the officer yanked her wrist, the attorney said.
“I just want those who are responsible, those who encountered her and did those things to her, to be held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Chief Hawkins said the department “takes all complaints seriously and carefully investigates them consistently with our policy and process.”
“We are asking for our community’s patience as we complete a thorough review of the situation, ensuring accurate and complete information,” she continued.