Norton Demands Answers after Secret Service Arrests Black Women

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[India Johnson\Yasmeen Winston]
Rep. Holmes-Norton: "Ms. Johnson and Ms. Winston were stopped even though they and their young children were the only occupants of the vehicle...Even with their young children present, the officer pointed the rifle at the head of at least one..."
Photo: Facebook

India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston, shown above, had guns drawn on them, while they were with their children--by Secret Service officers.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Tuesday sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and U.S. Secret Service Director James Murray and demanding answers on the arrests of two District of Columbia residents on the National Mall.

The women were parked and taking their infants out for an afternoon near the World War II Memorial when their car was hit by a Secret Service vehicle. After the crash, an officer pointed a rifle at one of the women and the women were handcuffed and separated from their children. Neither of the officers wore masks, even in the middle of the current pandemic.

“Such an incident must not be tolerated anywhere – but it will not be tolerated in our nation’s capital,” Norton said. “I am demanding answers to several specific questions, including why these mothers were arrested at all when it was apparent that their license plate did not match the one on the stolen car and why were they never read their Miranda rights.”

Norton’s letter asking for a response in writing within five business days is below.

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Director Murray:

"I write with strong concern regarding the arrests of two District of Columbia residents by officers with the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division on the National Mall. I understand from public reporting that the parked car India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston were sitting in was crashed into by a Uniformed Division cruiser when they were misidentified. Apparently, a car loosely matching the one they were driving, but with different tags, had been stolen by two men. Ms. Johnson and Ms. Winston were stopped even though they and their young children were the only occupants of the vehicle. I understand that after the crash, the officers got out of their car and one pointed a rifle at the women, yelling at them to put their hands in the air. Even with their young children present, the officer pointed the rifle at the head of at least one of the women. Both women were then handcuffed and separated from their babies, neither were read their Miranda rights, and the officers refused to let one of them breastfeed her son, even though the baby continued to cry out. While the women were handcuffed, the officers also conducted a search of the car despite a lack of an imminent threat, a warrant, permission, or, apparently, probable cause, since at that point it was obvious the car was not the stolen one. Additionally, the officers were not wearing masks even in the middle of a global pandemic.

"Please provide a written response to the following within five business days:

(1) Why did your officers think it appropriate to crash their cruiser into the car, even if they suspected it was stolen, when it appears that the women were not making any attempt to avoid a stop? Did they have their lights and sirens on or anything else to warn the occupants prior to the crash?

(2) Do your officers normally stop a car that your officers claimed matched a stolen car when the licenses do not match and the occupants of the vehicle do not match the description, or gender, of the suspects? How is probable cause or even reasonable suspicion alleged to have been met in that situation?

(3) Why did your officers not read the women their Miranda rights when it was obvious that they met the legal standard to be considered under arrest?

(4) Why were your officers not wearing masks in light of the global coronavirus pandemic?

(5) Why did your officers point their rifle at the head of one of the women, in front of children, when she had apparently made no effort to avoid arrest or in any other way posed a danger? Is it typical for your officers to draw a weapon on an individual who was pulled over just for having a car that might look similar to one that was stolen?

(6) Is there dashboard and body camera footage of the event, and if so, will you immediately release it to the public?

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