Pregnant Woman Forced to the Ground

Police tell mother to lie facedown in street, mistake her for auto thief.

ByABC News via logo
October 25, 2007, 7:40 AM

Oct. 26, 2007 — -- Elementary school principal Yvette Hayes will never forget the night of July 13, 2007. She was pregnant at the time and believes police jeopardized the life of her unborn child.

When Hayes was pulled over in the Kansas City suburb of Independence, Mo., on Interstate 70, she thought it was a routine stop. "I'm thinking they'd ask for my driver's license," she said.

Instead, police drew guns on the five months' pregnant mother whose two children were in the back seat of the car and told her to lie on the ground.

"Get your hands up," one officer shouted while another ordered her to "go down on to your belly. Arms out to your side! Palms up, palms up!"

Shocked and sobbing, all Hayes could say was, "I'm pregnant."

Hayes had just left a local JCPenney, where a store security guard misidentified her green Jeep as a vehicle involved in stealing cars from the parking lot.

"I was lying on I-70 on my belly, trucks going by at least 70 miles," Hayes said.

Fred Mills, chief of the Independence Police Department, said Friday on "Good Morning America" that people should listen to the full audio and video of the incident before forming an opinion.

"As soon as the officer realized -- and you can listen to the tape and that's why it's important that you listen to all the circumstances -- as soon as the officer realized, you hear the officer say, 'She's pregnant,'" Mills said. "They immediately got Mrs. Hayes up off the ground. And at the very most Mrs. Hayes was on the ground for 45 seconds."

Minutes after realizing their mistake, officers helped the distraught woman up.

"Again, listen to the demeanor of the officers," Mills said. "Listen to how they talk to her. They were apologetic. They were caring. They were compassionate.Not only to Mrs. Hayes but to her children."

The video camera caught the police as they tried to recover from the incident.

"What's your 4-year-old's name?" one officer asked in an attempt to calm her. "We're going to wait for you regain your composure and let you go back up to your car to your babies. They don't want to see mommy sad."

The officers are then captured talking between themselves.

"I'll do a report on this to cover our a--," the officer said. "If they got a black male suspect, they need to be sure they got a black male driver so I don't traumatize a very pregnant woman anymore and put her on the side of I-70."

Mills said that there was nothing to "cover up" about the incident.

"That's a mischaracterization of what was said. You're taking an unfortunatephrase that was used out of context," he said.

Hayes' supporters say the department store singled her out because of her race. Police say they followed procedure, but simply made a mistake.

Hayes also says she never got an apology from JCPenney.

In July, Hayes filed a lawsuit alleging that the Independence Police Department didn't release the videotape to her attorney in a timely manner.

Officials released copies of the tape to Hayes' attorney July 26, nearly two weeks after the incident, according to the Jackson County Examiner/Daily Record.

Missouri "Sunshine" law required the tape to be released less than three days after her lawyer's initial request on July 18. Independence police deny violating open records law.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone," she said. "If you ever had guns pointed at you, it's a horrible feeling."