Home News Poughkeepsie sisters involved in viral incident with police share their experience – Poughkeepsie Journal

Poughkeepsie sisters involved in viral incident with police share their experience – Poughkeepsie Journal

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Jamela Barnett turned around and saw her sister, 12-year-old Julissa Dawkins, being arrested.

“I tried to run to her when (a friend) had grabbed me, telling me to stay here and calm down,” the 15-year-old Barnett told the Journal. “But I kept screaming, ‘That’s my sister, that’s my sister.'”

Seconds later, a City of Poughkeepsie police officer threw Barnett to the ground, a scene depicted in a 17-second video circulating on social media.

Barnett and Dawkins were arrested following a fight in the city Monday. But their mother, Melissa Lynch, said neither was involved in the fight, and she is questioning the force used by the police officer.

Barnett and Dawkins, as well as 17-year-old Jahnya Webb, who said she was targeted during Monday’s fight, shared their perspectives on the events leading up to the viral video and what happened at the police station.

Police Chief Thomas Pape said in a statement Wednesday the department is aware of the video and is reviewing all information pertaining to the incident. The officer in the video, who police identified as John Williams, is still on duty.

“Based on a bouncy, 17-second video, I can’t comment on that,” Pape said in response to the force with which Williams arrested Barnett.

Det. Sgt. George Camacho declined to comment on any details of the incident beyond the initial statement.

Barnett and Dawkins face a misdemeanor charge of second-degree obstructing governmental administration. Dawkins faces an additional charge of resisting arrest. They are due in Family Court on Tuesday. 

Events leading up to the video

Around 3:30 p.m. Monday, Webb was “jumped” by several people with weapons, she said.

The Journal reviewed other videos showing multiple students attacking the young woman, some with brooms. At one point, a young man jumps on her back as others throw punches. 

The incident initiated on South White Street and moved west along Church Street to the area of Church Street and Hammersly Avenue. Barnett and Dawkins said they were in the area before the fight initiated.

Barnett said police were on scene from the beginning of the incident but did not immediately get involved.

Webb said neither Barnett nor Dawkins took part in the fight. Rather, she said Dawkins tried to console her after the incident.

“Julissa was basically trying to calm me down, telling me to move along, but I couldn’t breathe so I didn’t move,” Webb said.

Dawkins eventually left Webb, and she said she bumped into a police officer while trying to leave the scene. She said the officer arrested her after she made contact with him.

“He had my arm and then slammed me, and that’s when (my sister) turned around,” she said. “She saw me and tried to come pick me up, and that’s when the other cop slammed her.”

Barnett said a police officer repeatedly pushed her as she initially left the scene, causing her to drop her cell phone. 

“I stopped to look for my phone, and when I got it and put it back in my pocket, I turned around and saw (Julissa) on the floor getting arrested,” she said.

Barnett said she hadn’t realized the police officer grabbed her arm until she was thrown to the ground.

“He didn’t let me know I was being arrested, he just threw me on the floor,” she said. “After that, I blacked out.”

Barnett suffered a mild concussion as a result, according to Lynch, and Barnett and Dawkins had marks on their wrists from the handcuffs.

Arriving at the police station

Police held Barnett and Dawkins in separate rooms for about two hours, during which Barnett said she was thrown by a detective and belittled by multiple police officers.

Dawkins arrived first at the station. She said she answered questions for police but said officers suggested she was involved with the initial incident.

“They made it seem like we were fighting, but we weren’t fighting,” Dawkins said. “I was just there to comfort my friend and make sure she was OK.”

At one point, Dawkins said a detective asked her if she thought “all cops were racist.”

“I don’t think all cops are racist,” the 12-year-old said. “I just feel like if it was someone white and this had happened, the outcome wouldn’t be anything like this. And I feel like asking me that question at this age isn’t right.”

Barnett arrived after Dawkins, as she said she heard her sister in another room. Police confiscated her backpack and cell phone before Barnett said she was thrown into a room with a couch.

“I sat on the floor because my back was hurting from when I got slammed, and the detective came back into the room and started yelling in my face and telling me to get up,” Barnett said.

Barnett said she was accused of trying to hide a weapon before police moved her to a bench. She refused to answer any police questions.

Barnett said police belittled her throughout her time at the station and that she overheard police laughing after Williams admitted to slamming her to the ground.

“I heard one of them say, ‘let’s just say they were both resisting arrest,'” she said.

Barnett and Dawkins said they asked for water but police denied their requests.

Lynch received calls from friends and family about the situation, but she was unable to leave her job until after 4 p.m. Lynch estimated that she arrived at the station sometime after 5 p.m.

Lynch said said she was shaken by the condition Barnett was in.

Dawkins said police released her from handcuffs after she arrived at the station. Barnett remained in handcuffs the entire time.

“When my mom came, that’s when they took me out of the handcuffs,” Barnett said. “They had me in handcuffs the whole time.”

Lynch also said Barnett was left alone to deal with menstruation issues while at the station.

“There was blood running down her legs, and there wasn’t a female officer there to help her,” Lynch said.

For Lynch, seeing Barnett’s condition was heartbreaking.

“When I went in the room, my daughter had handcuffs on her, and she was crumpled up on a bench,” Lynch said. “She just started crying and crying, and I started crying, because that’s my baby.”

Lynch declined to comment on if she planned to take legal action.

Geoffrey Wilson: gwilson@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-437-4882, Twitter: Geoff_LW

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