Woman Says She Endured 8 Days In Psych Ward Because Cops Didn’t Believe BMW Was Hers
“I do think race played a part in this.”
NEW YORK — Kamilah Brock says the New York City police sent her to a mental hospital for a hellish eight days, where she was forcefully injected with powerful drugs, essentially because they couldn’t believe a black woman owned a BMW.
In her first on-camera interview about her ordeal, which aired Thursday, the 32-year-old told PIX11 that it was all a “nightmare.”
It’s a nightmare, Brock’s lawyer told The Huffington Post, that never would have happened if she weren’t African-American.
Brock sued the city earlier this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She contends that her constitutional rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments were violated and that she suffered “unwanted and unwarranted intrusion of her personal integrity, loss of liberty [and] mental anguish.”
The suit details how Brock pulled up to a traffic light in Harlem on Sept. 12, 2014, the music on her car stereo playing loudly. An NYPD officer approached her and asked why she was driving without her hands on the steering wheel, according to the suit.
“I said I was dancing, I am at a light,” Brock told PIX11. “He asked me to get out of the car.”
For unclear reason, Brock contends, she was taken into custody and transported to the NYPD’s 30th Precinct, where she was held for a few hours before being released without being charged with any crime. She said she was told to come back the next day to pick up her car, a 2003 BMW 325Ci.
When she showed up at a police substation to get the car the next day, Brock said, “I just felt like from the moment I said I owned a BMW, I was looked at as a liar. They put me in handcuffs and said they just need to put me in handcuffs to take me to my car. And I said OK, whatever it’s gonna take to get to my car.”
“Then EMS approached me,” she continued. “And they said we’re gonna take you to your car. And I’m like, in an ambulance? I’m going to my car in an ambulance? I’m going to my car in an ambulance? I was just so confused.”
Brock was taken instead to Harlem Hospital, where medical records obtained by her attorney, Michael Lamonsoff, show she was injected with powerful sedatives and forced to take doses of lithium.
“He held onto me and then the doctor stuck me in the arm and I was on a stretcher and I woke up to them taking my clothes off, specifically my underwear,” Brock tearfully recalled for PIX11’s Nicole Johnson. “Then I went back out again. When I woke up the next day, I felt like I was in a nightmare. I didn’t understand why that was happening to me.”
Medical records also show that over the course of her eight-day stay, personnel at the hospital repeatedly tried to get Brock to deny three things before she could be released: that she owned the BMW, that she was a professional banker, and that President Barack Obama followed her on Twitter.
The lawsuit says it was these three assertions that were the basis for the city determining that Brock was delusional and to diagnose her with bipolar disorder.
But according to Lamonsoff, Brock had no history of mental illness. She did own the BMW. At the time, she was employed as a banker and had worked at Citibank, Chase and Astoria Bank. And Obama does follow Brock on Twitter, just as he follows 640,000 other people.
When Brock was finally released from the hospital, the lawsuit states, she was slapped with a $13,000 medical bill.
A white woman would not have been treated like that, Lamonsoff argues.
“If a white woman was trying to reclaim her BMW impounded by police, would she have been made a victim?” he said to HuffPost. “Would she have been questioned? Would she have been subject to sarcastic comments? Would she be made to justify who she was in order to ask for help? I don’t think so. I do think race played a part in this.”
Institutional bias against African-Americans is well-documented and contributes to the racial disparities in how laws are enforced. Just this week, James Blake, formerly the fourth-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, was tackled and handcuffed at a midtown Manhattan hotel by police officers who confused him for a suspect in a crime. Blake, who is black, suffered cuts and bruises and was detained for about 15 minutes, until officers realized who he was.
“In my mind, there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what, there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody,” Blake said after the incident.
Responding to Brock’s lawsuit earlier this summer, the city claimed in court filings that she had been “acting irrational, she spoke incoherently and inconsistently, and she ran into the middle of traffic on Eighth Ave” during her encounter with police.
Lamonsoff told HuffPost that “those allegations are without merit” and that “the true facts of what happened that day will be brought out” through the litigation. The lawsuit, which names the city of New York, unidentified police officers and Harlem Hospital as defendants, seeks unspecified damages.
Neither the NYPD nor the City Law Department, which handles lawsuits filed against the city, responded to a request for comment on Friday. Previously the police department has only confirmed that Brock was taken into custody.