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Rep. Norton wants Secret Service to answer questions about people being detained during DC protests

The letter by congressman Eleanor Norton outlines her issues with two detainments of DC residents on the National Mall earlier this summer amid protests.

WASHINGTON — Congressman Eleanor Norton (D-DC) has sent a letter to Secret Service about detainments the federal law enforcement service made during protests following the death of George Floyd.

The letter by Rep. Norton outlines her issues with two detainments that happened on July 30 of DC residents on the National Mall earlier this summer amid protests.

The two women detained — India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston —  were near the World War II Monument when a Secret Service vehicle reportedly crashed into a vehicle that the women were in with their kids. 

Norton's office said that following the crash, the two women were handcuffed and separated from their kids, and one of the women had a gun pointed at them.

“Such an incident must not be tolerated anywhere — but it will not be tolerated in our nation’s capital,” Norton said. “I am demanding answers to several specific questions, including why these mothers were arrested at all when it was apparent that their license plate did not match the one on the stolen car and why were they never read their Miranda rights.”

In a statement from Secret Service, a spokesperson for the agency said that the details released by Norton and characterized by others are "misleading, and in some instances, false."

The specifics on the traffic stop by Secret Service said in the agency's statement:

"On July 30, Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers were notified by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia that a License Plate Reader (LPR) system had identified a vehicle in the vicinity of the White House complex that was connected to criminal activity. Specifically, the officers were informed that a person known to have driven the vehicle was wanted by the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department in connection with several felonies, and was designated as “armed and dangerous.” A Uniformed Division patrol unit located a vehicle matching the description and license plate number in the 1600 block of Constitution Avenue, NW, and initiated a felony traffic stop. The occupants of the vehicle were briefly detained until it was determined they were not wanted by law enforcement. During the felony traffic stop, a Uniformed Division patrol unit made incidental contact with the suspect vehicle."

In the letter to Acting Secretary Wolf and Director Murray of Homeland Security, Norton says that public records show that the car the two women were driving in was misidentified, and was similar to a car that had been stolen by two men. 

Norton’s letter asks for a response in writing within five business days. 

WUSA9 has not personally seen the public records mentions by Norton's office, but we will update this story with language from these documents once we are able to view them.

Below is the full letter from Norton's office to Acting Secretary Wolf and Director Murray of Homeland Security:

August 4, 2020

The Honorable Chad Wolf The Honorable James M. Murray
Acting Secretary Director
Department of Homeland Security United States Secret Service
301 7th Street SW 245 Murray Drive SW
Mail Stop 0150 Building T5
Washington, DC 20528 Washington, DC 20223

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Director Murray:
I write with strong concern regarding the arrests of two District of Columbia residents by officers with the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division on the National Mall. I understand from public reporting that the parked car India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston were sitting in was crashed into by a Uniformed Division cruiser when they were misidentified. Apparently, a car loosely matching the one they were driving, but with different tags, had been stolen by two men. Ms. Johnson and Ms. Winston were stopped even though they and their young children were the only occupants of the vehicle. I understand that after the crash, the officers got out of their car and one pointed a rifle at the women, yelling at them to put their hands in the air. Even with their young children present, the officer pointed the rifle at the head of at least one of the women. Both women were then handcuffed and separated from their babies, neither were read their Miranda rights, and the officers refused to let one of them breastfeed her son, even though the baby continued to cry out. While the women were handcuffed, the officers also conducted a search of the car despite a lack of an imminent threat, a warrant, permission, or, apparently, probable cause, since at that point it was obvious the car was not the stolen one. Additionally, the officers were not wearing masks even in the middle of a pandemic.

Please provide a written response to the following within five business days:

  1. Why did your officers think it appropriate to crash their cruiser into the car, even if they suspected it was stolen, when it appears that the women were not making any attempt to avoid a stop? Did they have their lights and sirens on or anything else to warn the occupants prior to the crash?
  2. Do your officers normally stop a car that your officers claimed matched a stolen car when the licenses do not match and the occupants of the vehicle do not match the description, or gender, of the suspects? How is probable cause or even reasonable

suspicion alleged to have been met in that situation?

  1. Why did your officers not read the women their Miranda rights when it was obvious that they met the legal standard to be considered under arrest?
  2. Why were your officers not wearing masks in light of the global coronavirus pandemic?
  3. Why did your officers point their rifle at the head of one of the women, in front of children, when she had apparently made no effort to avoid arrest or in any other way posed a danger? Is it typical for your officers to draw a weapon on an individual who was pulled over just for having a car that might look similar to one that was stolen?
  4. Is there dashboard and body camera footage of the event, and if so, will you immediately release it to the public?

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