BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple traveling through Bakersfield claim they were the victims of police brutality and a video that captures part of the incident is gaining attention online. Bakersfield Police say they were investigating a report of a man brandishing a weapon and resorted to baton strikes only out of safety concerns when the man refused to cooperate.
Neither side disputes the time, location and basic facts of what occurred before the incident, but they see what happened after police arrived quite differently.
The Lykins' story
Terrill and Amy Lykins said Wednesday that they and their three children were visiting relatives in Ridgecrest last week and stopped in Bakersfield on their way to Oregon because they were having mechanical trouble with their motor home. Terrill Lykins said they were stopped at Golden State Mall and eating dinner the evening of April 27 when the problems began.
Terrill Lykins said a Ford pickup came speeding through the mall parking lot and came dangerously close to hitting two girls. He yelled at the driver to slow down, and the driver sped off but returned about 10 minutes later.
The driver got out of the pickup, Lykins said, and approached him in an aggressive manner. Lykins said that he was holding a silver flashlight in his hand at the time, and the man may not have known it wasn't a weapon.
The driver told Lykins he was going to call the cops, and Lykins told him to go ahead because he hadn't done anything wrong, Lykins said. Police arrived about 20 minutes later.
"I greeted them and got screamed at," Lykins said.
He said he gave officers permission to pat him down, but after they did that they started to handcuff him and he pulled away. He asked why they were handcuffing him and they told him to get on the ground.
When they ordered him to lie flat on the ground, he said he told them he was a disabled veteran and didn't want to exacerbate his injuries.
Lykins said Wednesday that he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder while working on a vehicle that had been involved in an IED explosion, among other incidents. A tanker bar on the vehicle struck him in the head.
He said he was sitting with his hands on his head when an officer first hit him with a baton. Lykins said his wife tried to intervene, but was placed in handcuffs and put in a police cruiser.
Officers then beat him again, he said, and he tried to crawl under the motor home to avoid their strikes. He eventually crawled back out and was arrested, with a court date scheduled for April 18.
Lykins also said he's a former police officer who worked in Idaho, and he said officers never told him they were detaining him when they started to place handcuffs on him, nor did they just talk to him about the situation as he wanted them to.
Bakersfield police Wednesday gave a far different account of what led to Lykins' arrest.
Police spokeswoman Michaela Beard said officers received a report at 8:32 p.m. March 27 of a man brandishing a knife. Officers contacted Lykins, who was walking in their direction when they pulled up.
The officers asked Lykins to comply with their requests, which he agreed to do, Beard said. But Lykins then pulled away and resisted officers, who then ordered him to get on the ground.
Police said Lykins refused to obey their orders and kept moving away. That's when one of the officers struck him with a baton, Beard said. At this point a woman -- apparently Amy Lykins -- got out of the motor home and began yelling at the officers to leave Terrill Lykins alone.
Beard said officers repeatedly ordered Amy Lykins to back away from them and from Terrill Lykins, but she refused and continued to yell at them. She was placed in handcuffs and put in a patrol vehicle because she was impeding the investigation.
The online video shows this part of the encounter, with Amy Lykins shouting, officers clearly asking her to back off and then handcuffing her when she wouldn't.
"Because of the nature of the initial call officers wanted to address the situation and make sure everyone was safe," Beard said.
Officers again instructed Terrill Lykins to lay flat on the ground, but Lykins began to crawl under the motor home. Beard said officers again struck him with their batons because they weren't sure if he was reaching for a weapon.
Lykins finally complied and was taken into custody, Beard said. The reporting party confirmed that Lykins was the man who had approached him in an aggressive manner while brandishing a knife.
Lykins was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a knife and resisting arrest.
Beard said she didn't know how many times Lykins was struck. Lykins said he believes it was at least seven times.
Beard said officers repeatedly asked Lykins to cooperate with them. They tried placing him in handcuffs when they arrived so they could safely conduct their investigation.
"Officers hadn't located a knife upon arrival, didn't know where it was and wanted to locate it," she said.
A video of the incident taken by one of the couple's sons was posted on YouTube and titled "Bakersfield Police Brutality." The video shows about two minutes of the incident, and during that time no one is struck.
Officers appear calm in the video as the Lykins scream at them. At one point, after repeatedly being told to step away from them, Amy Lykins gets in an officer's face and tells him to "shut up."
The video, which lasts about two minutes, shows officers repeatedly asking Terrill Lykins to show his hands, telling him that they received a report that he had a knife. Lykins refuses to cooperate and be searched, and officers can be heard telling him they don't want to hurt him and that they will detain him and his wife to investigate if he has any weapons.
Beard said anyone who believes they were the victim of police misconduct is asked to call Internal Affairs at 326-3131.
"We live in this community and we want to provide excellent service in protecting the city of Bakersfield and keeping individuals safe," she said.
The Lykinses said they have retained an attorney from Irvine and hope to resolve the matter before the April 18 court date. Then they want to move on to Oregon.
"I just want to get out of here," Terrill Lykins said.