DC delegate demands answers from Secret Service about treatment of two Black moms on Mall

DC delegate demands answers from Secret Service about treatment of two Black moms on Mall
© Bonnie Cash

Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing DC delegate highlights effects of Postal Service quagmire on community MORE (D) sent a letter to acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSenate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week Hillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Democrats slam DHS chief for defying subpoena for testimony on worldwide threats MORE and U.S. Secret Service Director James Murray on Wednesday demanding answers about the treatment of two Black mothers near the National Mall.

India Johnson, 26, and Yasmeen Winston, 25, said they were detained by Secret Service officers without cause earlier this summer while trying to visit the World War II Memorial with their babies. 

The women told The Washington Post in an interview published earlier this week that a Secret Service police vehicle drove into the front of their car shortly after they parked near the Mall. Moments later, they said they were detained by officers who brandished guns as their babies cried in the backseat. 

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They also said their car, which police said was reported stolen but is owned by Johnson, was searched without her permission. The women also said that the officers detaining them weren’t wearing masks, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In her letter to Wolf and Murray on Wednesday, Norton expressed “strong concern” regarding the incident and demanded answers to a list of questions she provided.

“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?” Norton asked in the letter.

“Why were your officers not wearing masks in light of the global coronavirus pandemic?” she continued in the letter. Norton further pressed officials about the women’s claims that they had also not been read their Miranda rights during the ordeal. 

She also asked officials if “dashboard and body camera footage of the event” existed and if they would release it to the public.

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Norton called on the officials to provide a response to her letter within five business days. 

The Secret Service commented on Norton’s remarks about the incident in a statement to local media on Wednesday, saying they were “misleading, and in some instances, false.”

According to details provided by the Secret Service to WUSA9, the incident, which they said took place on July 30, began when “Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers were notified by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia that a License Plate Reader (LPR) system had identified a vehicle in the vicinity of the White House complex that was connected to criminal activity.”

“Specifically, the officers were informed that a person known to have driven the vehicle was wanted by the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department in connection with several felonies, and was designated as ‘armed and dangerous,’” the agency continued.

The women told the Post that, during their stop, they were told by an officer that authorities were searching for two Black men. 

The women said they were detained, during which time Winston also said an officer pointed a rifle at her head, for roughly 45 minutes before officers eventually let them go.