Family suing Phoenix for police brutality rejects apologies from mayor, chief
By Melissa Robbins, Cronkite News | Monday, June 17, 2019
PHOENIX – A Phoenix couple held at police gunpoint after their 4-year-old daughter allegedly shoplifted from a dollar store said Monday the city hasn’t done enough to make up for the terrifying incident, despite apologies by the mayor and chief of police.
Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper spoke publicly after announcing last week they plan to sue Phoenix for $10 million following the release of cellphone video showing them and their two young daughters being threatened at gunpoint by officers shouting profanities and physically assaulting both the parents.
The confrontation took place late last month. Ames and Harper were not arrested, and charges have not been recommended.
After the video went viral, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Mayor Kate Gallego released statements apologizing to the family for the way officers treated them.
Williams said in a video that she was “disturbed by the language and actions” of the officers involved. In a statement, Gallego said she was sickened by the video and called police behavior “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.”
However, the family said, neither Williams nor Gallego has reached out to them personally, and that their words were not enough.
“We’ve been aware of apologies from the mayor and from chief and honestly it really hasn’t done anything to help us ‘cause it feels like it’s a half apology,” Ames said. “The officers are still working. It’s just basically a slap in the face.”
The couple were joined by the Rev. Jarett Maupin, who led the news conference, and their attorneys, former Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne and his law partner, Sandra Slaton.
Maupin called for the firing of the officers in the video, whose names have not been released. The officers are on desk duty as an internal investigation continues.
– Video by Taniyah Williamson/Cronkite News
“We think it’s absolutely absurd that you can apologize for something and seek to move beyond something without actually disciplining and firing these officers who were involved in this situation,” Maupin said.
The officers involved initially filed an incident report suggesting the couple were combative; however, it differs widely from what can be seen in the cellphone video.
In her statement, Gallego said a community meeting will be held at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church at 6 p.m. Tuesday to allow community members to speak with her and Williams about the incident. Maupin, however, said the family considers the meeting a “sham” and a “farce” and will attend only to share their opinions on how the city should move forward.
A protest, scheduled by Poder in Action and AZ Resist, two Arizona social justice advocacy organizations, is planned at the same time outside the church.
Monday’s public statements come just weeks after major news outlets reported on Phoenix police officers expressing racist and violent ideologies on social media, after investigations conducted by the Plain View Project.
Harper said her daughters were traumatized following the event, and that one now wets the bed and wakes up crying at night.
“I always taught my daughters to depend on the police if something’s happening, but she had to find out herself that they cannot depend on the police,” Harper said. “Which is a very sad situation because my daughter is terrified to this day of the police.”
The family was suspected of theft after their 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a toy doll from a Family Dollar store in Phoenix, according to the official notice of claim filed by Horne and Slaton. It states that the couple drove to a babysitter’s house near 32nd and Roosevelt streets, where a police car pulled in behind them. The developments that followed are shown in the cellphone video.
Since the video’s release, the family has received support from a number of celebrities, including an offer from rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation to provide legal support.
Gallego’s office declined to comment further. Phoenix police did not respond to requests for comment.
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