Police board investigating Tasering of pregnant woman by cop
BY KIM JANSSEN, MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA AND RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporters June 6, 2012 3:10PM
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:53PM
At eight months pregnant, with her kids in the car watching, Tiffany Rent got Tasered.
She was taken to the ground, cuffed and arrested, said her lawyer, who was incredulous about the events, which police say started when Rent got a parking ticket outside a South Side Walgreens, ripped it up, threw it in an officer’s face and tried to drive away from police.
“She’s visibly pregnant,” attorney Keenan Saulter said. “The officer should have known she was pregnant, and based on the facts we’re aware of, there never should have been any Taser used.”
Rent went to a hospital Wednesday after being released from custody. She was hit with misdemeanor charges of simple assault and resisting a police officer.
Her mother was “pretty shocked.”
“I couldn’t believe this happened, and I was pretty upset, too. But she seems to be OK. We’ll see. You know, I’m just not surprised at anything that Chicago Police do these days,” Tonie Rent said. “I hope they don’t get away with this.”
Rent has lost two unborn children during previous pregnancies, her attorney said, and is now being “closely monitored by her doctors.”
“If you have a woman who’s at this late stage of pregnancy, obviously there’s room for concern,” Saulter said.
Emotionally, he said, “She’s not well — her children had to witness this.”
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Rent’s case is now being investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority.
Commenting on police policy for stun gun use, McCarthy said: “You want to use it where you’re overcoming an assault or preventing escape — that’s what it boils down to. That policy has been in effect for quite some time. Whether or not that policy has been adhered to is going to be examined separately from the investigation of the use of force.”
Police officials said Wednesday it’s unclear whether the Tasering officer realized Rent was pregnant. And McCarthy noted, “You can’t always tell if somebody’s pregnant.”
It played out Tuesday night outside the Walgreens at 103rd and Michigan. Rent got ticketed for parking in a disabled spot, and then “tore up the ticket and threw it in the police officer’s face,” police said.
When the officer asked Rent for her state ID so that he could write her a second ticket for littering, Rent refused, and shouted “several expletives and refused to comply,” police said.
She then tried to put her car in gear and leave. That’s when the officer used his Taser, police said. Rent’s lawyer disputes that account.
Rent’s fiancee, Jerry Hobbs, who was with her at the scene, was arrested when he tried to intervene. He said he dislocated his elbow during the arrest. His arm was in a sling Wednesday.
Rent appeared exhausted as she left University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital in a wheelchair Wednesday afternoon. Accompanied by Hobbs and obviously in the advanced stages of pregnancy, she declined to comment on the advice of Saulter.
“She’d just left baseball practice after dropping off her eldest son — she’d stopped off at the local Walgreens,” Saulter said. “Regardless of any dispute about a parking ticket, that should never result in a pregnant woman getting Tasered and a man having his elbow dislocated.”
Saulter disputed that Rent had tried to speed away from the officer and questioned whether she had even parked in the first place, arguing that she never got out her car. But Saulter said that even if she had tried to speed off, “Why is that a reason to Taser her? She wasn’t under arrest and she’d already been given the ticket.”
Saulter said she was handcuffed and at some point ended up on the ground. More cops came to the scene later, and at one, point, one suggested Rent, who is black, complain to the Rev. Jesse Jackson if she objected, Saulter said. Of the original officers on the scene, one was black and one was white.
Chicago Independent Police Review Authority chief Ilana Rosenzweig said the incident is being investigated by her staff. An investigator left her business card at Rent’s South Side apartment Wednesday, with the message: “Tiffany, please call us!!!”
“We do have investigators in the field looking for witnesses,” Rosenzweig said Wednesday afternoon.
Walgreens has turned over security camera footage to investigators.
Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital said they couldn’t speculate on the effect of Tasering a pregnant woman, but said it would likely depend on whether the woman had any other risk factors and where the woman was hit with the Taser.
In 2004, a 7-month pregnant woman in Seattle was hit with a Taser in the leg, neck and arm, but had a healthy child.
Contributing: Monifa Thomas