Homeless Woman Faces Life in Prison for Picking up a Police Baton

Thursday, July 23, 2015
Trishawn Carey (photo: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

It’s probably not a good idea to pick up a police officer’s nightstick from the street and hold it high while officers engage in a deadly struggle with another person just feet away. You might get shot.

Trishawn Cardessa Carey, 34, escaped with her life when officers, instead, swarmed her on Los Angeles’ Skid Row March 1, but she may not escape with her freedom. The Los Angeles County District Attorney charged her with felony assault with a deadly weapon against an officer, a third strike that could send her away for life. Bail was set at $1 million.

Carey’s encounter with the police was caught on a surveillance camera at Union Rescue Mission and someone’s cellphone and went viral, but she received little attention at the time because she was not the focal point. All eyes were on Cameroonian immigrant Charly Keunang and his struggle with police, during which the homeless man allegedly pulled a gun from an officer’s holster and was promptly shot to death.

The mission video was not the only one filmed. Two cops were wearing body cameras, but those videos have not been released. Jeff Sharlet wrote at GQ that he saw the videos and heard police interviews with witnesses and they contradict the story told by police.

Police reportedly responded to a complaint by another homeless person that Keunang did something bad to him. Two of a gaggle of officers on the scene appear to tase him when he refuses to follow their orders, according to Sharlet, although whether the tasers hit the mark has been contested. An officer drops his baton to grab Keunang, who is shot during the ensuing struggle. Carey picked it up.

Sharlet visited her in jail after hearing from acquaintances on the street that she was considered crazy. In jail, “crying without tears, she'll sing hymns. Pretty little soprano through the jailhouse phone.” Carey, whose street name is Nicki Minaj, told him she doesn’t know what happened or why she is in jail.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ray Jurado reduced Carey’s bail to $50,000. She has nine previous convictions, two of them serious. Her 2002 conviction was reportedly for a robbery during which the victim was punched in the head, and a 2006 assault was a figurine attack against a shopowner trying to kick her out.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

A Homeless Woman Picked up an LAPD Nightstick During the Skid Row Shooting—and Could Get Life in Prison (by Gale Holland, Marisa Gerber and Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times)

The Invisible Man: The End of a Black Life that Mattered (by Jeff Sharlet, GQ)

Free Trishawn Carey: Open Letter to District Attorney Lacey (Los Angeles Community Action Network)

The LAPD Is Lying About the Fatal Police Shooting of a Homeless African Immigrant on Skid Row (by Shaun King, Daily Kos)

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