California officer wrestles pregnant woman to the ground

May 30, 2015
Charlena Michelle Cooks

Charlena Michelle Cooks

The ACLU has released footage of a California police officer tackling an eight-months pregnant woman and wrestling her to the ground. [LA Times]

Charlena Michelle Cooks has just dropped off her daughter at elementary school when the Barstow police officer demanded that she provide identification due to an alleged road rage incident. When Cooks refused to provide ID, the officer grabbed her arms and attempted to place her hands in cuffs.

The policeman then wrestled her to the ground and completed the arrest. Cooks screamed as she fell face first on the ground.

“Do not touch me. I am pregnant,” Cooks said. “Please, I am pregnant. Please stop this.”

The incident occurred in January. Cooks says she gave birth in March.

Cooks is black, and it appears the officer is white. The Barstow Police Department said Cooks actively resisted arrest and denied the incident was racially motivated.

The ACLU says Cooks’ arrest was unlawful because California law allows a person to refuse to provide ID.

“I actually have the right to ask for your name,” the officer said during the incident.

Police only charged Cooks with obstructing justice. The charge was dropped, according to San Bernardino County court records.


Officers are not allowed to require a name or detain you if they do not have a reasonable amount of evidence that you committed an actual crime. The officer himself said that he didn’t think a crime was committed. In Ca you don’t have to give your name or provide id until you are arrested. False imprisonment by a LEO opens up the community to substantial civil litigation, so they usually don’t do so unless there’s evidence.

This woman acted like an idiot, but she legally (CA) had every right to resist arrest. Like it or not. I’d rather have one stupid woman let go than to legally set out on a slippery slope where any LEO can interrogate anyone for any reason. When power gets out of balance, things have a tendency to go downhill fast if left unchecked.


Markslo he had reason to question her I believe because of a road rage incident.

And according to you sometimes it is okay to “resist arrest?”

I think officers have the right to question her and to figure out who they are dealing with. A crime had been committed.

Being black is not a crime, but it does not give you the right to act like a moron either.Had she just cooperated it would have been over and done in no time.

You don’t want to give your name ect…. yeah that is going to pique my interest and make me wonder what are you hiding. I think she was playing chicken with the officers and thought she would win.

Being pregnant she should have thought about her child first and just answered the questions, knowing things could go bad quickly and her unborn child could get hurt.


To clarify: In Ca, as in most states, you have a legal right to resist arrest IF you can prove after the fact that leos knew or should have known that the arrest was in error.

I think the woman should have just remained calm and the situation likely would have worked itself out. Your right, when people act stupid, stupid things happen.

Now, the reason why the ACLU has jumped all over this case and is trying to make it go viral is because its about as open and shut as you can legally get.

1) The officer said on camera that he didn’t think a crime was committed.

2) In Ca you don’t have to give id, say your name, or provide any info unless you are arrested.

3) In Ca you are allowed to walk away from an officer at any time unless you are lawfully arrested.

The arrest was legally invalid and the officer should have known.


2) In Ca you don’t have to give id, say your name, or provide any info unless you are arrested.

3) In Ca you are allowed to walk away from an officer at any time unless you are lawfully arrested.


Stop passing out false information. You have no idea what you’re talking about. So don’t just go and say things because people may pass it on or act on it.

Obviously, a cop can detain a person and conduct an investigation without arresting. Sometimes the detention and investigation leads to an arrest, sometimes it doesn’t. But you don’t get to just walk away at your will because you haven’t yet been arrested.


The detention issue is debatable — but most cops won’t debate it on the street. Practically speaking, you should expect to battle this one in court.

If you do choose to take this route, a calm and simple refusal is your best chance. Saying something to the effect of “I choose not to answer questions without the advice of my attorney.” is a start. Asking “Am I under arrest?” and (if not) “Am I free to go?” would be the follow ups. You must be willing to bet that the cop will think that there is too little proof to be worth the hassle of arresting you if you go this route. It takes both patience and the persistence to stick to your position in the face of repeated questioning to do this and there is no guarantee of success. A video of the process does improve the odds.

You CAN refuse to answer any questions, including request for ID, and force the cop to either arrest you or let you go. However, poorly trained or overly aggressive cops may also push this issue and treat you as if you are under arrest without actually arresting you. If you physically resist, they will then use that as a reason for arrest and the physical dominance mentality comes into play. You will get both the physical abuse now and a court battle later. Letting your emotions dictate your response to a cop (difficult to avoid if you think you are being wronged) makes this more likely to happen.


There was no EVIDENCE of a crime being committed in this case — just a claim by another person of a road rage incident. Yeah, the officer was doing his job in trying to get to the truth of the situation but he went too far in assuming that the reluctance of the black woman to provide ID was reason to detain her. It is one thing to have suspicions, it is another to use physical force to act on them. He crossed the line.

Could she have made the situation better by being more calm in her response — yes. But she was within her rights to not provide ID. And, if she had experienced racist harassment by cops in her life (a fair chance), maybe she had reason to get a bit paranoid about police abuse in general.

Kevin Rice

*If* she had a right to resist arrest, it’s still stupid—you’re going to end up on the ground. If you come to an impasse with an officer you have to make a decision whether to comply or potentially get hurt. If she didn’t want to produce ID then she was pretty much going to get arrested by this officer. Why add injury and a legal battle? She should have accepted the arrest like a grown-up to avoid a physical battle. Or, she could have chosen to have her rights infringed and produce ID to avoid the legal battle.

It wasn’t her choice to have her rights infringed, but it was her choice to have her rights infringed the hard way.


Officers are not allowed to require a name or detain you if they do not have a reasonable amount of evidence that you committed an actual crime. The officer himself said that he didn’t think a crime was committed


Wrong. I don’t know why everyone is passing this baloney around.

All an officer needs to detain you and ask for you identity is reasonable suspicion that a crime might have occurred. Reasonable suspicion. Think about it. Suspicion based on reason. 99% of the time when the officer shows up to a dispute, all there is the alleged victim’s statement (at least to start with)–and that amounts to reasonable suspicion. Absolutely. No question about it. It allows the officer to detain people and take names and look for evidence and talk to witnesses. That is exactly why it is called reasonable suspicion. It doesn’t mean there is probable cause for an arrest or that there ever will be. It just means the officers was duly notified that something illegal might have occurred and he needs an opportunity to investigate without people running (or walking) away.

Reasonable suspicion:

1. They received a call about an out of control lady who was driving the wrong way and who assaulted a victim.

2. When they showed up, the victim was present and gave her side of the story–that the lady drove the wrong way, drove recklessly and got out of her car and banged on the victims car and threw something at the victim’s car. And the victim named an allegedly supporting witness.

This constitutes reasonable suspicion. It’s called assault. It is illegal to drive the wrong way and it is especially illegal to get out of your car and go try and start a fight and bang on someone else’s car. That is assault. There is no requirement that damage to the car occur. There is no requirement that the victim exit her car to potentially expose herself to an enraged attacker.

The confusion here is because the cop replied to the alleged victim that what she said the perpetrator did did not amount to a crime. Wrong. Assault is a crime. The cop was obviously wrong. When people get out of their car and approach another car and yell and cuss you out and pound on your car it is an extremely dangerous situation and can lead to batteries and even deaths.


Great facts, well answered.

Her body language says she was looking for trouble, she is pretty amped up, trying to act cool.

Or maybe she just earned an Emmy for playing the part of a wronged person.


Another non cooperative citizen. Resisting arrest for sure. You can’t do that no matter what you believe at the moment. Cooperate and file a complaint later.

Looking more closely, was the arrest necessary or lawful? Dunno on this one. I suppose this will get dragged through the courts of law and the courts of public opinion, but a first thought is: Once YOU engage the cops by not leaving the area, even if the incident was minor, or an argument, you have to show respect and cooperation with all lawful orders.

If I’m on the civil jury, she doesn’t get a dime for her belligerence, nor for resisting and worsening the take down, pregnant or not. Belligerence and stupidity comes in all races; this was not a racial case.


The video showed no evidence of which woman was lying (one obviously was, maybe both) but the cop assumed that the black woman was based either on her refusal to cooperate (or possibly her race) from comments made later to other officers and the dispatcher.

He had the right to ask her for her name but she should have had the right to refuse to answer it since there were no charges being made at that point. This is not yet Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia and citizens should not be required to provide papers to avoid detention or arrest. Even if she had been arrested prior to the questioning, she should have had her rights read to her — including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Assuming the cop is not a racist or a badged bully by nature, his training and education sucked. There are better ways to handle a “she said, she said” dispute than doing so by domination and a bad understanding of his rights as a police officer of hers as a citizen. Waiting for her to calm down and allowing her a reasonable time free of interference to contact someone for legal advice would have been a good start.

While her hysterics didn’t help the matter, I do see her point of view. The cops motivation for his actions may or may not have been racial but they were wrong. It is time that Police Departments start retraining their officers about respecting the rights of the people they call “civilians” (another sign of militarizing police in this country. There needs to be financial consequences when they don’t and the cop involved needs to face severe disciplinary action if they can’t learn to treat people respectfully unless and until the person involved initiates a physical confrontation.

Kevin Rice

Police don’t have to read rights upon arrest unless they are going to ask questions. Usually police try to ask questions BEFORE making an arrest so they don’t have to read rights. City jail prisoners always scream about not getting their rights read. That’s a movie thing.


Thanks for the link. You will note further down the page under “Pre-arrest questioning” that, while many LEOs and prosecutors disagree, current California Law does allow one to refuse to answer questions. It may well end up as a court battle because of the disagreement though so physical resistance is not a productive response to the situation — you need to be prepared to accept an arrest and fight it in court later.


Wow, that was awful to watch but it’s good it was filmed to show what REALLY happened.

“Michelle” wasn’t threatening the cop; she was standing there explaining her side of the story, just like the first woman did.

Excessive force for sure. Big time law$uit and this time, I agree with the plaintiff.


Yes. I don’t know what or if the other commenters here watched the WHOLE video, but the woman was calm and explain rationally in the beginning. It was the COP that escalated the situation and then became physical. The COP should be charged with assault at the least.


The driver of that Kia needs to learn how to park.


Wow, maybe if she had a better attitude and cooperated, she might have been treated better.

Are the cops suppose to just give up and let her go because she acts up?

Mr. Holly

Real simple. Just provide your ID and go home.


That would take some common sense.

Kevin Rice

In the alternative, choose not to provide ID and accept that you might be taken into custody and have criminal charges filed against you that you can then hire an attorney to fight. But don’t resist arrest and then expect pity because you got taken down.

Dirk Anderson

I don’t get the legal aspect that’s for the experts to figure out. But damn a little common sense, don’t let the badge go to your head.

This guy does sound stupid and takes his authority a little to seriously. Frankly does not appear to be worthy to exercise authority (as granted by the state) over anybody.


The article is misleading. In CA, if you are suspected of a crime, as this lady apparently was(something related to road rage), you MUST show identification. If you don’t, you are guilty of resisting/obstructing. In this case, the fact that the officer has not asked the other witness for her ID yet is irrelevant, the other witness was NOT suspected of a crime.

The above notwithstanding, the officer, being white, upon seeing a pregnant black woman there, should have told the complainant she was on her own and kept going. He should have known it was going to go badly. It would have been fairly easy to determine her identity(she had a kid in that school after all) and filed a complaint with the DA’s office without ever laying hands on her. This is going to happen more and more, black suspect refusing a lawful order and white officer losing his head and not dealing with it appropriately. If the woman had done nothing wrong, why would she refuse a lawful order to ID herself?


I don’t think she looked pregnant, and saying he should have just let her go knowing things were going to go badly? WTF, why were things going to go badly?

Because she says she is scared by the “white woman” she made it racist. Then she says she needs her child, why did she need her kid. And she kept screaming Don’t touch me, instead of I am pregnant.

I don’t think the officer lost his head, if you listen there was a corporal there as well as a sgt, if the officer was doing something wrong they would have said something.

Just another person trying to play the race card and hoping for a cash cow.Cops have a hard enough time doing their jobs without idiots like her pushing the limits and not cooperating. All her wanted to do was take a report and let everyone go about their day. She caused the situation and their were a lot of witnesses to what she did.

She just had an attitude from the get go, and next time maybe she will just do what they ask and be done with it.


By “things going badly” I mean the prevailing sentiment these days. White cop, black citizen…no matter what he does it will be wrong, whether he is right or not. Cops don’t stand a chance these days.


You have bought into an LEO point of view about providing ID prior to an arrest. It is disputed and the Supreme Court struck down a law that authorized it in a broad manner. Whether it is allowed in narrower circumstances or not is a battle still being fought in the courts. Since I happen to think that we should be better about respecting individual liberties than totalitarian regimes, I am inclined towards the rights of the citizen unless clear evidence of wrong-doing is present.

I find it amazing that so many people can’t see or understand why someone who has experienced prejudicial treatment over a period of many years would be distrustful of the police. Granted, racism is more subtle and less frequent than it was 50 years ago, but it is still present and it will have to largely go away for quite some time before the victims will believe that it has gone. “Driving while black” is still a reason to stop and check in many jurisdictions. There are variations for Latinos and other, non-raced-based groups as well. If you had that background, would you maybe be fed up enough to be uncooperative?

Kevin Rice

What’s scary is unlawful officer conduct doesn’t get wide exposure unless it’s a pregant/minority person.


It’s only ‘scary’ because it’s coming to light.

The ethnic community has known of these bully/rogue/thug cops for decades.

White privilege has insulated the non-ethnic community, even though many non-ethnics have been victims at the hands of these goons with badges.

You should be thankful that these government authoritarians are now being revealed and legitimately mistrusted.

Dirk Anderson

I have to run but this got some exposure:

Kevin Rice

I said “wide exposure”.


That Wide Exposure can get you arrested

Dirk Anderson

Ok ? apparently this video went viral, and they are rioting in the streets of Barstow? I will have to get up to speed on this. I don’t want to split hairs. I heard nothing about this on the news?

I’m not as pointy headed as some. The issue was not the level of exposure per se, nor semantics, but rather about Police misconduct.

This Homeless individual was killed by these Officers. These turds got let off the hook completely. Bar owner had phoned the Police and embellished the truth. Homeless man was really doing nothing and did not deserve to die at the hands of these dirt bags. Cop who is hitting him in the face with stun gun, is himself disfigured in the face from a gun shot wound. Homeless man (does have a history of nuisance) is the son of a former LA Sheriff. Frankly the Culture in general disgusts me.

The context in this pregnant lady video (perhaps a tad hormonally imbalanced) is not clear to me, but despite the “authority” aspect, seems Officer could have used a little more common sense and done things differently.


I wish I could dispute your assertion…but sadly I can’t.


what unlawful officer conduct?


What unlawful officer conduct?

Try wearing a gun and badge instead of just a fire fighter uniform and you might see this a bit differently.

Kevin Rice

citygirl, It’s not yet legally conclusive if *this* case constitutes unlawful conduct (though I hope such persecution of citizens becomes conclusively unlawful), but there’s been plenty of unlawful officer conduct documented in plenty of cases.

Your needling comment is false argumentation called “Argument from authority”. You’re asserting anyone who is not a peace officer is not expert enough to have an opinion. A similarly false retort might be, “No officer can judge these circumstances because they aren’t regular citizens and can’t comprehend being accosted by an armed government agent.”

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