Black woman says she was assaulted, unlawfully handcuffed by police

Ja'Lana Dunlap's attorneys released phone footage of the incident this week.

ByAmanda Su via ABC logo
Saturday, October 15, 2022
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Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins calls for judge to release body camera video from incident where woman says officers assaulted her.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Police in Fayetteville, North Carolina, are investigating an incident involving a 22-year-old Black woman after she said officers assaulted and unlawfully handcuffed her in September.

Ja'Lana Dunlap's attorneys released video footage of the incident, taken on Dunlap's phone, this week.

On Sept. 6, Dunlap, a property manager at the time, said she was taking pictures of the property she oversees on behalf of the owner, who had recently gotten a citation from the city about people illegally dumping furniture and trash on the site.

"I was planning to take pictures because we had already hired somebody to clean it up," Dunlap told ABC News. "So, I was just making sure that they did their job."

After taking the photos, Dunlap said she had returned to her car when two Fayetteville police officers, who were searching for a suspected fugitive, approached asking why she was on the property. Dunlap said she responded, providing her name and explaining that she was taking photos for her boss.

Dunlap said one officer asked her to provide identification. She said she declined, knowing North Carolina is not a "Stop and Identify" state, meaning Dunlap was not legally obligated to provide her ID if she had not committed or been suspected of committing a crime.

"I know my story checks out," Dunlap said. "I know if I didn't do anything wrong, I shouldn't have to give you my ID."

But Dunlap said the officer continued to demand she provide her ID, at which point Dunlap began to record the encounter with her phone because she said she feared for her safety.

Soon after, she said another officer reached into the vehicle and grabbed her left arm. Dunlap can be heard repeatedly on the video recording asking the officers to "Please stop."

The officers ask her to step out of the vehicle and when she doesn't, they tell her to "stop resisting." Dunlap tells the officer that she will exit the vehicle if they let go of her arm.

The cell phone video she released does not show the beginning of the encounter and becomes shaky once it appears that police pull her out. Afterwards, they pull her out -- which is not shown in the video because officers took her phone -- and Dunlap alleges that officers slammed her against the trunk and placed her in handcuffs.

Dunlap, who suffers from sickle cell anemia, said she began hyperventilating due to the stress, at one point even vomiting.

"They were actually trying to yank me back up with the handcuffs behind my back to the point where I had to ask, 'Y'all please stop so I can finish throwing up,'" she said.

The officers eventually removed the fluorescent fanny pack around Dunlap's waist to grab her ID, she said, and released her after verifying her identity.

She said her left hand was bruised and swollen for a week after the incident and still has visible scratches.