The parents have announced a $10 million lawsuit alleging civil rights violations

By Jeff Truesdell
June 17, 2019 06:25 PM
Credit: ABC 15

The mayor and police chief in Phoenix, Arizona, are apologizing after video went viral showing an officer shouting profanities and pulling a gun on a father and pregnant mother after a 4-year-old girl walked out of a store with a Barbie doll.

The May 27th incident led the parents to file a notice of intent last week for a $10 million claim against the city in which they allege their civil rights were violated, reports ABC15.

A statement from Phoenix police referred to “extremely offensive and unprofessional language and actions by officers.” It said the behavior did not come to light until June 11, when the department learned of videos taken by witnesses to the confrontation in an apartment building parking lot.

“We do not in any way accept the apology of the mayor or the chief of police,” a spokesman for the family, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, said at a news conference Monday where he stood with the couple, Dravon Ames and his fiancée, Iesha Harper, and their attorneys, former Arizona attorney general Tom Horne and civil rights lawyer Sandra Slayton.

“The family has described the apology as a sham and lacking all substance,” said Maupin. “One, because the police officers involved in assaulting this family and their children, violating their civil rights and terrorizing them, damaging them permanently, are still employed by the City of Phoenix.”

He called it “absolutely absurd” to apologize and attempt to move forward without disciplining and firing the officers. “That must happen,” said Maupin.

A Phoenix police officer detains Dravon Ames on May 27, from a video recoding of the encounter
| Credit: Phoenix Police Department

Police chief Jeri Williams used the department’s Facebook page on Friday to announce an internal investigation into the incident. “I, like you, am disturbed by the language and the actions of our officer,” she said on video. “For those of you who have made public comments and have contacted me personally about the video, I get it. Your concerns are also my concerns.”

In comments to KTVK and KPHO on Sunday, she went further. “I am disappointed. I’m sorry and I apologize to the family,” she said.

She added: “We are all angry about this. We are all upset about this. This is not what should be happening.”

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams
| Credit: Phoenix Police Department/ Facebook

A statement released by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said: “I, like many others, am sick over what I have seen in the video depicting Phoenix police interacting with a family and young children. It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.”

According to police, officers were called to the Family Dollar store by a manager reporting a shoplifting at 11:17 a.m. on May 27. While that was being investigated, the manager alerted officers to an alleged second shoplifting incident that was then unfolding, with the suspects getting into a car to leave.

An officer who approached the car saw a woman drop an item before getting into the vehicle that “quickly reversed and drove away,” police said.

Moments later officers saw that women exit the car, which then continued. The woman was stopped and booked on three outstanding misdemeanor warrants, police said.

After spotting the same car a short distance away, police said the male driver, Ames, and a second woman, Harper, were arrested. “The male driver told an officer he shoplifted a package of underwear from the store and threw them out the window, and in addition he was driving on a suspended license,” according to police.

Harper told an officer that her aunt — the first female to exit the vehicle — and child had gone into the store together, and that she’d seen her child walk out of the store with a doll and “she believed they had stolen it because they didn’t have any money,” the police statement alleges.

Because the store manager declined to prosecute, no one was arrested for shoplifting, police said.

Attorney Tom Horne, speaking on the couple’s behalf, notes that no charges from the incident currently are pending against either Ames or Harper. He specifically declined to comment on the police report stating that Ames had shoplifted a package of underwear, but points of that in his notice of intent to file the $10 million claim against the city, there is no dispute about whether the young girl took the doll from the store.

The officers involved have been removed from patrol duty and placed on desk assignment while the investigation unfolds.