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Phoenix couple who say police threatened to shoot them will speak in mayor's meeting Tuesday

Posted: 5:55 AM, Jun 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-18 07:55:27-04
Phoenix couple who say police threatened to shoot them will speak in mayor's meeting Tuesday

The couple who Phoenix police "terrorized" after their daughter took a doll from a store will speak during a meeting with the city's mayor Tuesday evening, and will be joined by a number of community members who say they have experienced police brutality in the city, a family spokesman said.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announced the meeting Saturday, saying she "asked our Police Chief to be present to listen directly to the concerns of our community members," and discuss solutions.

The announcement came shortly after two videos surfaced which showed officers pulling guns on and threatening to shoot Dravon Ames and his fiancee Iesha Harper last month, during a shoplifting investigation. The couple says their daughter walked out of a Family Dollar store with a doll without them noticing.

Police released surveillance video from the store on Monday. One video shows Ames standing in a store aisle. According to the police report, he told officers he stole underwear. In another clip, a little girl holding a box is seen talking to a woman who appears to be standing in a checkout line. That woman throws the merchandise she had been holding at a display and walks out of the store. The little girl waits for two other adults and leaves the store with them, still holding the box.

After the release of the store's surveillance footage, the couple's attorney Thomas Horne said nothing justifies the police response.

"Whether it was a little bit of shoplifting or a little bit less of shoplifting, it doesn't justify what happened," Horne said.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin, the spokesman, said Monday the families who would be at Tuesday's meeting include relatives of Michelle Cusseaux , who was killed by a Phoenix police officer in 2014, Edward Brown, who was paralyzed after being shot by an officer in August and "by any number of people who have been killed or harmed by Phoenix police."

The meeting, Maupin said, is a "sham," but the family will be there to "drop off their opinion on what needs to happen ... in order to change the employment policy that allows police to not be disciplined for what they do in this city."

The officers involved have been placed on desk duty while an investigation takes place, police said.

What the video shows

The couple has filed a notice of claim against the city for $10 million, which serves as a precursor to a lawsuit.

They say they didn't notice when their 4-year-old daughter walked out of a dollar store with a Barbie Doll. Police followed their car from the store and stopped them in the parking lot of an apartment complex, according to the police report.

In the videos that have surfaced, one officer can be seen handcuffing Ames, first on the ground and then against a police car. The officer kicks Ames and can be heard yelling multiple times, "When I tell you to do something, you f****** do it."

Another officer appears to be pulling a gun on the passenger side of the couple's vehicle before Harper exits the car, holding a small child, with a second child by her side. Harper was five months pregnant at the time. One officer tries to yank the small child from her arms and eventually allows her to give the child away to a person the couple say was a stranger, because Harper did not want to give her children to police.

In a statement, police said the incident began when an officer was advised by store employees of shoplifting and was directed to people getting into a car. As the officer walked toward the vehicle, the car quickly backed up and left the parking lot, police said.

According to the police report, an officer gave loud verbal commands for the occupants to get out with their hands up.

The report says Ames yelled he didn't do anything and began reaching towards the center of the vehicle, causing the officer to draw his handgun. Ames then began to comply and put his hands above the steering wheel, and he was then handcuffed, the report states.

The officer gave commands to Harper, still inside the vehicle, to put her hands in the air, but she refused, the report states. The officer feared that she was hiding something or was reaching for a weapon, according to the police report.

The report also says that Harper was "loud" and "verbally abusive" and refused police commands.

The family said Monday the police report is "full of lies."

What couple did doesn't justify police actions, attorney says

"There was a lot of very brutal, physical brutality that went on," Horne, the couple's attorney told CNN's Don Lemon Monday night.

When asked to respond to the new surveillance video, Harper said she can't "comment on that right now."

Ames said he didn't take anything out of the store.

"I feel like they're trying to make my family look bad on top of already terrorizing us and hurting us already physically, mentally. My daughters are traumatized, they'll never look at police officers the same. They're supposed to help and serve and protect," he told Lemon.

He says it's "frightening to put families' lives at stake over materials."

Sandra Slaton, who is working with Horne, also said nothing justifies the officers' actions.

"Let's just assume, for the sake of argument -- which we do not assume, really, it's not the case -- let's just assume everything was true in the 16-page report, it still would not justify the horrific, barbaric action of this police department," she said Monday.

Couple wants officers fired

Both the mayor and the police chief have apologized for the actions of the police officers with the chief saying the incident is not "representative of the majority" of Phoenix officers.

Ames say the mayor's apology hasn't helped the family and the fact that the officers are still working is "just basically a slap in the face."

Maupin said no one has personally apologized to the family.

"You really ought to pick up the phone, the mayor knows our phone numbers, the police chief knows (our phone numbers)," he said Monday. "They went on an apology tour, that's not being accepted locally or by any people around this country with a conscious that are demanding to see something of substance done in this city.