A Chicago police department civilian watchdog group is now spearheading the probe into allegations that not only did officers taser a woman who was eight months pregnant, they also openly mocked her with taunts of “if you don’t like the treatment you can call the Rev. Jesse Jackson.”
Tiffany Rent was later treated and released at nearby Roseland Hospital, but doctors now have her under strict supervision, fearing the 30-year-old victim who has already suffered two prior miscarriages, may have had her unborn child harmed when she was also pulled from her SUV, thrown to the ground and handcuffed face down by unfeeling officers.
“I’m outraged, just livid,” snapped Shareeta Rent, the victim’s younger sibling, who added that her sister’s boyfriend and father of her unborn child, Joseph Hobbs, was also arrested and suffered a dislocated elbow when he tried to come to her aide.
“I mean who does that?,” she added. “My niece and nephew were in the back seat of the car crying. They did all this is front of the kids, then left them there to fend for themselves after they took their mother away.”
The couple’s nightmare evening began to unfold late Tuesday when Rent sat in her vehicle outside a neighborhood Walgreen’s and officers, despite her sitting in the vehicle and stationed behind the wheel, moved to ticket her for parking in a handicapped zone and littering.
“I didn’t hit anybody, I didn’t do anything,” Tiffany Rent, worry about her unborn child etched on her face and tears streaming down her cheeks, said Wednesday just after appearing before a circuit court judge on misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest charges.
“He started off healthy, and it’s a possibility now that something may be wrong with him,” she said of her yet-to-be-born son. “I’ve had to deal with losing two children already.” Shortly after making her court appearance, Rent had to be rushed to a second hospital when she began to experience more stomach pains.
Despite collaborations from witnesses that officers appeared quite overzealous in their treatment of her, particularly given her condition, police have sought to justify their actions by contending Rent swore at officers, tore up the parking ticket she was issued and threw it at them, then tried to drive away from the scene before she could be taken into custody.
“She’s visibly pregnant,” said family attorney Keenan Saulter. “The officer should have known she was pregnant. Regardless of any dispute about a parking ticket that should never result in a pregnant woman getting tasered. She wasn’t under arrest and she’d already been given a ticket.”
Saulter added Rent even told the officers she was expecting, and cops were also clearly able to observe her condition when she got out of the vehicle to speak with them during their early interaction.
While declining to discuss many specifics of the case, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy admits officers are trained and generally authorized to only use a taser to prevent an escape or overcome an assault. McCarthy added that policy has long been in effect and often addressed in regular roll call meetings.
“Whether or not the policy has been adhered to is going to be examined separately from the investigation into the use of force,” he said. “I will say you can’t always tell if somebody’s pregnant,” he somewhat shockingly added.
“I’m not surprised at anything that the Chicago police do these days,” Tonie Rent, the victim’s mother told the Chicago Tribune. Added Shareeta Rent: “We’re going to file complaints and go from there and hope to God something is done about it. This is ridiculous.”
At the time of the incident, the younger Rent told investigators her sister was momentarily sitting in the handicapped zone waiting for Hobbs to return when officers arrived and blocked in her vehicle. “She asked if they were writing her a ticket, they said yes and she tried to explain. They gave her a ticket for $200.
“I walked back to the car and I ripped up the ticket, but I didn’t touch him,” Tiffany Rent admits. “I was scared, so I got back in the car and was rolling up my window. Next thing I know I was being tasered. I was sitting in the car with the window rolled up and he tasered me through the window.”
IPRA chief Ilana Rosenzweig said staffers are now in the field investigating and are soon hoping to interview more witnesses. Beyond that, many are hoping the incident will finally force lawmakers to deal with the issue of what constitutes misconduct on the part of officers when dealing in such situations. Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of a pregnant Seattle woman tasered by three officers during a traffic stop in 2004.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.