In a continuation of the ongoing police scandals rocking the New York City Police Department, three-month old infant Layla Smith has been pronounced dead following an August sixth incident. This closely follows the July seventeenth death of NYC resident Eric Garner after the use of a prohibited choke hold by officers against him. Garners death was ruled a homicide by the NYC medical examiners office.
Suzanne Smith, Layla’s mother, had been sitting on a bench in Queens waiting for the bus when Layla began to insistently cry. Knowing that her baby was hungry Ms. Smith began to breastfeed her daughter. Witnesses at the scene report that she was then approached by a NYPD Officer, later identified as Michael Fitzsimmons, who requested that she stop feeding the baby in public as it was “indecent”. Ms. Smith refused to comply with the directive and told Officer Fitzsimmons that she wasn’t doing anything illegal. Officer Fitzsimmons again insisted that she stop and threatened to arrest her for indecent exposure. Ms. Smith calmly responded to the Officer that he could not arrest her because breastfeeding in public wasn’t against the law.
“He got so mad at her”, said Tyrone Webb, who witnessed the unfortunate altercation. “He started yelling at her, saying that he was the police, and that she didn’t know s**t about what was against the law. He got all red in the face, pointing his finger right at her nose. She just sat there and kept feeding the baby calm as could be, being real polite and reasonable. Someone else tried to chime in and tell him he was wrong and he told the lady to shut up and mind her business.”
As the argument transpired the bus approached and Ms. Smith stood up and moved Layla to her other arm, momentarily exposing her whole breast to the Officer and other onlookers. Ms Smith then clipped her breastfeeding bra shut and went to get on the bus with her baby.
Sandra Parker, another witness to the incident, described what followed next: “He screamed at her to stop and told her that she was under arrest. When she ignored him and kept walking toward the bus he grabbed her by the back collar of her shirt and violently yanked her backwards. The poor baby just toppled out of her hands. She hit the ground and the poor little thing just started bleeding from her head. The Officer saw what happened and actually continued to cuff the mother while she began to scream. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen!”
Onlookers grabbed the injured baby and attempted to staunch the flow of blood from her split head. Officer Fitzsimmons is reported to have made the statement to the crowd that “it was an accident but you can’t resist arrest”. Layla was transported to Queens Hospital Center. Her mother was taken to the precinct for processing. Layla subsequently died, without her mother, from her injuries at the hospital.
Officer Fitzsimmons has been placed on paid leave pending a full investigation. The NYC Police Department has issued a statement expressing their concern regarding this “unfortunate” event and states that all citizens must comply with orders to submit to arrest peacefully so that accidental injuries can be avoided.
Local community leader and Smith family friend Harold Jackson has called for the arrest of Officer Fitzsimmons on charges of murder, calling his actions a travesty of justice. Ms.Smith was released from police custody with no charges being filed against her. The Smith family has not yet commented on the death of their daughter.
Update- A candlelight vigil will be held at Alley Pond Park starting at 6pm Thursday Evening to remember the brief life of Layla Smith.