Boca Raton police investigating violent arrest of pregnant woman, boyfriend at gas station
The Boca Raton Police Department launched an internal affairs investigation into one officer's conduct after a body camera video of an arrest went viral.
Nerillia Laurent has lived in Delray Beach her entire life. The mother of four is 23 weeks pregnant with her fifth child.
She and her boyfriend, Harry Hardy, were at the Mobil gas station on Congress Avenue in Boca Raton when they were arrested.
Boca Raton PD posted about the incident on social media, stating a bystander called 911 to report a domestic disturbance after observing the couple argue, Hardy pound on the vehicle and a child running freely in the parking lot.
Laurent told WPBF 25 News she and Hardy did have a disagreement, but the caller was mistaken.
“When I was pulling out of the gas station, my transmission light came on, and my car turned off," she said. "My boyfriend was standing in front of the car trying to get me to open the hood, but I don’t know anything about cars. We just bought the car three months ago, so I wasn’t expecting the car to be having problems already.”
She said when officers arrived at the scene, they had no idea they were there to speak with them.
“We knew that we didn’t do anything for the police to be called, and we knew that we didn’t call the police, so it was kind of surprising," Laurent said.
Boca Raton PD is identifying the officers only by last names: Officer Fowler and Officer McNichol.
Laurent told WPBF 25 News she and Hardy were speaking with Fowler when McNichol walked up to their car.
He can be heard on body camera video asking multiple times for Laurent and Hardy's driver's licenses, which they refused to provide.
"At that time, I did not want to give it to him because he had snatched my keys, which I had the car on for the A/C because I had my 10-month-old baby in the back,” she said.
After refusing to provide their IDs, Officer McNichol's body camera shows him remove her from the car and put her on the ground.
In that recording, Laurent is heard saying, "I'm pregnant," repeatedly. The officer responds, "I don't care."
Laurent was put in handcuffs and led to the back seat of a patrol car. She claims the car was off with the windows rolled up.
Later in the body camera video, Laurent is heard saying, "I cannot breathe in here." Officer McNichol responds, "sure you can," and closed the door.
Laurent said her unborn child is healthy.
According to Boca Raton PD, Laurent was charged with resisting an Officer Without Violence and was issued a citation for No Valid Driver License. Laurent was also arrested for the outstanding warrant for Failure to Appear, Driving While License Canceled, Suspended or Revoked, and Giving a False Name Upon Being Arrested or Detained.
Harry Hardy was charged with Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, according to Boca Raton PD.
Michele Miuccio, the chief of Boca Raton PD, released the statement regarding the incident below:
"There is understandable public concern about the May 22 arrest of a woman after we were called to a domestic disturbance alleged to be taking place in and around a car on Congress Avenue. While the responding officers had a duty to identify the people involved and investigate if a crime took place or anyone was at risk, one of our officer’s actions did not help to de-escalate the situation. I take our commitment to professional police service seriously and hold that expectation for all of our personnel in all interactions with the community we serve. An internal affairs investigation has been initiated into the officer’s conduct, and it will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately addressed based on the outcome of that investigation. I am committed to maintaining trust and transparency with the community of Boca Raton."
Laurent said she is hopeful their charges are dropped and "wants justice" for her family.
"I don’t know what it looks like, but however it looks, I want it for me and my kids,” Laurent said.
She also said her family plans to pursue a civil case.