A disturbing video captured a Phoenix police officer aiming a gun, yelling obscenities and threatening to shoot a black family after their 4-year-old daughter walked out of a store with a doll last month.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego reacted in a statement Saturday that “there is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable.”
Police Chief Jeri Williams launched an investigation into the confrontation after recently receiving the video that was recorded by a bystander. “I, like you, was disturbed by the language and the action of the officer,” she said in a Facebook posting. “I assure you this incident is not representative of the majority of our Phoenix police officers.”
Police released the video (shown below) to the public. Another video shot from a different angle, also taken by a witness, was posted to YouTube (shown above).
The officers involved in the confrontation have been assigned to desk duty. The couple is now suing the police department and the city of Phoenix for $10 million.
The incident began as officers responded after receiving a shoplifting report on May 27. They shouted at 22-year-old Dravon Ames, his pregnant fiance, Aisha Harper, 24, and their two young children to get out of their car, which Ames had just driven to their babysitter’s apartment complex. As Harper, who was in the backseat with the children, told police that she couldn’t open the stuck door and that she had her year-old baby on her lap, an officer can be heard on the video becoming increasingly agitated.
He yelled repeatedly: “Get out of the fucking car.” Then: I’m going to shoot you in your fucking face.”
He also warned: “I’m gonna put a cap right in your fucking head.”
At one point a tearful Harper pleads: “Don’t point it at my kids.”
According to the couple’s account, Ames was shoved to the pavement by an officer as he exited the car and handcuffed. He was then stood up, pushed against the vehicle and kicked in the right leg.
When Harper emerged, the couple said police tried to wrestle her younger child away from her. She can be heard ordered on tape to put the baby down, and she responds: “She’s a baby, she can’t walk.” The baby can then be heard screaming.
At one point the man recording the scene and a friend yell at the cops to “calm down.”
Though the couple was detained, neither Ames nor Harper were arrested or ticketed, The Phoenix New Times reported. The store did not press charges.
Gallego said she was “sick over what I have seen in the video,” calling the confrontation “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.”
She added: “As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting.” She apologized to the family and vowed to speed up the schedule for equipping all officers with body cams.
An initial police report said that the family drove away from the store even though they were ordered to stop, and that Ames yelled at an officer when he eventually pulled into a parking lot, according to ABC News 10. Harper and her children were “moving frantically” in the backseat and officers suspected she may have been armed, they claimed.
A police report posted to Facebook on Saturday didn’t mention those details. It said that Ames told them when he was stopped that he had shoplifted a package of underwear, and that he was driving with a suspended license.
The lawsuit alleges the police officers “committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of civil rights.”