Phoenix Mayor Apologizes After Video Of Police Threatening To Shoot Black Couple In Front Of Their Kids Goes Viral

“There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable," said Mayor Kate Gallego after video shows officers cursing and threatening a family.

By Eric Shorey
Mayor Kate Gallego

The mayor of Phoenix, Arizona has apologized on behalf of the city after a video in which police officers threaten to shoot a man after accusing him of shoplifting went viral.

Mayor Kate Gallego said in a public statement posted to Twitter on June 15 that watching video of police screaming at a black couple in front of their children made her "sick."

“It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional,” she wrote. “There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable. As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting.”

The video in question depicts Dravon Ames, Iesha Harper, and their two young girls, 4-year-old Island and 1-year-old London, being approached by police who accuse Ames of shoplifting before threatening to shoot him in the "f--king face."

The Phoenix Police Department posted a blurred version of the video on their official page last week.

Public Information June 11, 2019

On June 11, 2019, we were provided video of an officer taking two individuals into custody while investigating a shoplifting incident in the area of 3200 East Roosevelt Street. This occurred after the suspect vehicle was stopped a short distance from the scene of the theft. It involved a man and a woman with two small children. Please be advised, there is some language which might be considered offensive. The video is intentionally blurred for redaction purposes. The Phoenix Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and for this reason, this incident is currently being investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau. Information provided by: Sgt. Tommy Thompson Phoenix Police Department Public Affairs Bureau

Posted by City of Phoenix Police Department on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The footage was caught by witnesses at the scene but the events before the video and those depicted therein have since been disputed by police. Even the date of the altercation remains unclear: A notice of claim filed on behalf of the family said the incident took place on May 29, but the police officers claim it happened on May 27, according to The New York Times

No charges were filed in connection to the incident. 

The Phoenix Police Department said on their Facebook page that the ordeal began after a store manager called to alert them of a possible shoplifter and that Ames admitted to stealing underwear. The Ames family lawyer, Thomas C. Horne, said that  an “anonymous alleged witness” had been the ones to tip off police, who then followed Ames, according to The Times. Further complicating matters: the notice of claim says that the couple hadn't noticed their daughter accidentally walking out of the store with a doll, thus catalyzing the confrontation.

A police followed the family as they drove to an apartment, where the confrontation recorded on video took place. It's not clear what happened before the witness' camera started recording. The police report indicates that the family refused to cooperate with their demands, thus escalating the situation, according to CNN

What the video does show is officers threatening both Ames and Harper, who was pregnant and holding her baby. One of the officers can be heard yelling "You're going to get f--king shot!" 

Ames' lawyer claims that after being pulled out of the car, his leg was injured by an officer, according to NPR. The family also claimed the baby was injured by a police officer who pulled the infant's arm before the child was handed off to a bystander, according to USA Today.

There is no bodycam footage of the incident.

The City of Phoenix Police Department Facebook Page posted a video from Phoenix Police Chief Jerry Williams on June 14 addressing the fallout from the videos going viral.

“I do want you to know that I expect our employees to maintain their professionalism and proper training at all times,” says Williams, who has since asked that the officers be taken off the street and placed on desk duty.

The police department has not publicly named the officers involved.

The notice states the case can be settled for $2.5 million for each of the four claimants, or $10 million total, according to 12 News of Phoenix, Arizona.

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