Shocking footage of a Phoenix police officer telling a 22-year-old man, “I’m gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head” has sparked backlash against a department already reeling from the revelation last week of racist social media posts from officers.
Now, the man and family in the video — Dravon Ames, his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, and their two young children — have filed a notice of claim against the city of Phoenix. The family is seeking $10 million in damages. Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is representing the family.
“The police officers committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of civil rights under the fifth and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution,” the claim states.
“My hands are up! My hands are up!” 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to “get your fucking hands up.” The same officer later says “You’re gonna fucking get shot!”
Ames says the officers stopped him after his child walked out of a Dollar Store with a doll. pic.twitter.com/Nlkd7IXsyc
— Meg O’Connor (@megoconnor13) June 12, 2019
Video of the May 29 encounter with Phoenix police near 36th and Roosevelt streets show several Phoenix police officers, some with guns drawn, surrounding the car of the couple and their two young children. It’s unclear what preceded the encounter, but Ames said it all began after their daughter walked out of a Family Dollar store with a doll.
In the video, officers can be heard screaming and cursing at the couple in front of their children to “put your fucking hands up.” One officer can be seen pointing a gun at the car with the children inside, while another can be heard saying, “You’re gonna fucking get shot!”
At one point, an officer slams Ames’ face against a police car, then kicks his legs apart. Meanwhile, another officer attempts to yank Harper’s 1-year-old daughter out of her arms.
According to the notice of claim, the officer also punched Ames in the back while he had him pressed up against the police vehicle. Ames, who works at a warehouse, said he has suffered physical injuries as a result of the encounter.
The family also alleges that one of the officers injured their 1-year-old child when he attempted to yank the baby out of Harper’s arms.
“The first officer grabbed the mother and the baby around both of their necks, and tried to take the baby out of the mother’s hand. He told her to put the baby on the ground, which she was unwilling to do because the baby could not walk, and the ground consisted of hot pavement,” the notice of claim states.
“The first officer pulled the baby by the arm to get her away from the mother, which injured the arm, in a condition known as ‘dead arm.’ Island [the couple’s 1-year-old child] has been having nightmares and wetting her bed, which she has not done before this incident,” it states.
Harper also alleges one of the officers told her he “could have shot you in front of your fucking kids” while she was detained and handcuffed in the back of a police car.
Phoenix police say they’re investigating the incident, but did not respond to emails from Phoenix New Times asking for an interview with Chief Jeri Williams and for the names of the officers involved. Ames believes the especially aggressive officer’s last name may be Meyer, Meyers, or Myers, according to the notice of claim.
Phoenix police commented to ABC15 (KNXV-TV) that the officer who cursed, threatened, and roughed up Ames is on a “non-enforcement assignment.” The other officer who pointed a gun at Harper and her children inside the vehicle remains on patrol.
Footage of the incident spread quickly online and sparked backlash, with dozens of people, including a few state lawmakers, criticizing the department for having officers on the force as irrationally aggressive as the ones seen in the video.
Is this the appropriate response from #Phoenix police officers when a small child accidentally takes a doll from the dollar store? You can hear the children crying in the background. #smh https://t.co/1RhDkovJU1
— Isela Blanc (@IselaBlancAZ) June 13, 2019
“We’re thinking we’re gonna get shot cause he kept threatening, ‘I’m gonna shoot you in the face,'” Ames told New Times on Wednesday “We were so scared.”
Two videos recorded by residents of the apartment complex begin in the middle of the encounter. It is unclear from the videos what preceded it or why the officers are using such force to detain the couple. The Phoenix Police Department has not provided any additional information about the incident, but did confirm in a statement on Facebook that the interaction was prompted by a “shoplifting incident.”
Hey, @phoenixpolice: This poorly-trained, high-strung, emotional nuclear bomb was on the edge of turning this traumatic incident into something much worse. He is a menace to the public and you need to fire him NOW. https://t.co/zmYzxhfJJK
— Jaime Margary ???????? (@JaimeMargary) June 12, 2019
@phoenixpolice this is absolutely disgusting. This is how you train your cops? Cops who demand respect but cannot give respect in return. I’m so thankful this family did not lose their lives today. I thought the point was to protect your citizens- not target them. DO BETTER! https://t.co/IYQnvNY9C3
— laur (@laurizcool) June 13, 2019
Come on .@phoenixpolice Do you really hire losers like this? Your officers have to kick folks in handcuffs and threaten to shoot women holding babies? All over a stolen doll one of the children took? You can do better. Fire those creepy officers please. https://t.co/2wKFMGRFa2
— ????Jenna Lee???????????? Can we impeach donald yet? ???????? (@JennaLeeTV) June 13, 2019
@phoenixpolice this is out of control. That officer is a bully and stain to the service men and women in your department. Get it together and do something about this officer who is obviously over stressed and/or dealing with anger management. https://t.co/9z5Gj89vXU
— BRANDON (@branburb) June 13, 2019
Who is this officer @phoenixpolice? He should be immediately fired. Is this how you train your officers? Yelling that he’s going to shoot American citizens in the face IN FRONT OF THEIR CHILDREN, while they are trying to comply? Absolutely DISGUSTING @PhxPDChief https://t.co/xfPq26DT7r
— Hannah Jackson (@HannahMFJackson) June 13, 2019
Ames told New Times he had just pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex to drop off his kids with a babysitter when Phoenix police officers surrounded the car and told them to get out. Ames alleges that Phoenix police approached him because, unbeknownst to him, his daughter had walked out of the nearby Family Dollar holding a doll from the store. Someone at the store told an officer on security detail that his daughter had stolen from the store, he said.
He also said that despite being detained for a time in the back of police vehicles, both he and Harper were not arrested or ticketed.