Cindy Hahn describes it as her “most horrific day”: A seemingly innocuous exchange between her and a police officer escalated, until she was on the ground, being punched in the face. A bystander caught the whole thing on camera, and now she may finally get some justice.
Hahn was leaving a birthday party in 2013 with her 7- and 11-year-old children when, she says, she passed a police officer standing near a car, blaring its alarm, and asked him what was going on. The police officer allegedly responded by telling Ms. Hahn to “mind [her] own f***ing business,” prompting the mom to call the nonemergency police line to complain about the officer’s behavior.
It could have ended there. It didn’t.
Video: Geragos Tube/YouTube
Instead the officer followed Hahn as she got into her car, and pulled her over immediately, ostensibly for a seat belt violation, a citation Hahn maintains she never received. She was asked to exit the vehicle, and that was when things got out of control: The video above shows Hahn, pinned to the ground, screaming for help over and over again while onlookers ask, “What are you doing to her?” Another officer arrives on the scene, but instead of de-escalating the situation, it appears he joins in, punching Hahn in the face “with a closed fist,” according to court documents.
The video is shocking — there’s no doubt about that. The fact that her children could only look on from the back seat of the car while their mother was beaten makes it worse, but by far the scariest part is that before the video surfaced, Hahn was facing charges of felony battery on a peace officer, fighting a court battle that ultimately lasted two years.
Those charges were finally dropped when the video surfaced, making it clear that Hahn — and not the two officers — was the victim in this altercation and not the instigator, as they had initially alleged.
This isn’t the first time a bystander has affected change just by switching on their phone’s camera. We’ve seen a number of instances like this in recent years, and the reaction to these videos is practically universal: shock and outrage.
That’s because with the technology we all have in our pockets and use every day, these victims have something they wouldn’t have had in years past: a perfectly accurate witness to their ordeals. A camera can’t forget details or be intimidated or confuse a timeline.
It’s one thing to hear about something like this, but it’s a completely different thing to see it for yourself. In the past, an onlooker couldn’t do much but witness what was happening right in front of them. They might try to intervene, which could be risky, or they might report what they saw, which could be easily discounted or ignored. Now, we all have a way to help, and we carry it with us every day.
In this instance, it’s what’s going to hopefully get Cindy Hahn and her family the justice they rightly deserve.