SAN DIEGO - An exotic dancer from Cheetahs strip club in Kearney Mesa claims she was roughed up and hogtied by San Diego police this week -- all because of where she works.
The incident comes on the heels of a claim filed on behalf of more than two dozen dancers against the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) that alleges they were harassed during a recent raid at the club in which officers swarmed the building with guns and bulletproof vests.
Photos taken two days ago show bruising all over 21-year-old Heather Durden’s body, from her face and waist, to her wrists and legs.
“I just think the whole thing was unnecessary,” said Durden, choking back tears.
At about 1 a.m. Wednesday, Durden walked out of her Clairemont apartment, headed to her car to get some cigarettes, when she says a San Diego patrol car stopped her.
She says another patrol car then arrived with two more officers.
Durden says that when asked if she had been drinking, she responded, “a little.”
“I had only a few drinks at work,” Durden told 10News Friday. “I was buzzed and not drunk.”
She says they then searched a bag and found her dancer's license.
”That's when I heard him (one of two male officers) make a comment, ‘Oh, she works at Cheetahs.’”
Minutes later, Durden, now handcuffed in a backseat, says she maneuvered the tight cuffs under her legs, ending with her hands in front of her.
“The cuffs were really tight and causing a lot of pain,” Durden said.
Soon after, Durden alleges that she was told she would be hogtied because she was not cooperating.
“They jerked my arms. My head kept hitting the pavement.”
She says her legs were tied and she was thrown in the backseat and driven to jail without a seatbelt. She says she was finally her offense was being drunk in public.
“At the jail, one of the officers again commented to a deputy, ‘this is a Cheetahs’ girl,” Durden said.
A few hours later she was released with no citation or scheduled court appearance.
“I believe the dancers are being targeted,” said Dan Gilleon, Durden’s attorney. “It's scary for them, this department, all they know is payback.”
The alleged incident comes one day after Durden and more than two dozen other dancers filed a claim against police stemming from a March 6 raid. It states that the officers held them against their will and took revealing photos of their tattoos.
San Diego police have said they were making sure the dancers were in compliance.
However, Durden believes her work set the off the officers.
“It just doesn't seem right at all. I’m angry and upset.”
According to an SDPD statement, officers responded to a 911 call about an "extremely intoxicated" woman who was walking in the street “yelling and shouting and appeared to be very upset.”
They responded to the 3600 block of Cowley Way to find Durden.
“Durden was arrested for being drunk in public,” the statement reads. “Durden was extremely intoxicated and uncooperative and had to be restrained to prevent harm to her and damage to property. Durden was rejected by detox for being uncooperative and subsequently transported to Las Colinas.”
SDPD did not disclose why she was released without being charged or cited.
“The whole time I was cooperating,” Durden told 10News. “I wasn't combative. I wasn't giving them attitude.”
Durden, who suffered a concussion, plans to file another claim next week, alleging excessive force.
Gilleon, who is representing the dancers in the larger claim, said another local strip club raided that same night could soon join the case. He did not elaborate.