PHOENIX — A man and his pregnant fiancée said Monday that they want Phoenix to fire the officers who pointed guns and yelled profanities at them because their 4-year-old daughter took a doll from a store.
Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, who are black, said at a news conference that they don’t accept the apologies of the city’s police chief and mayor and have not received a face-to-face apology since a bystander’s video emerged and drew outcry.
“It was very frightening for me and my children,” said Harper, who is six months pregnant. The couple’s 4- and 1-year-old daughters witnessed the encounter.
Once taught to trust law enforcement, Harper said the couple’s older daughter “is now terrified of the police, wets the bed, wakes up crying.”
Phoenix's mayor & police chief are apologizing to a family planning to file a $10 million lawsuit over an incident caught on video. Cellphone video shows officers pointing guns and threatening to shoot, after responding to a report of shoplifting. @jeffpeguescbs has more: pic.twitter.com/1gevOEnfXs
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) June 17, 2019
The video released Friday shows officers aiming guns and yelling profane commands at a man and a pregnant woman holding a baby. Neighbors gathered around in a parking lot, and the video shows that a woman watching the confrontation took the children to get them out of harm’s way.
The couple filed a $10 million claim against the city alleging civil rights violations by officers. The race of the officers investigating the shoplifting report last month is not known.
Ames and Harper say their daughter had stolen a doll from a store without their knowledge. Police say no one has been charged in the case.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association is urging calm, saying in a statement that the police union will not form an opinion until an official investigation is complete.
The video comes amid an investigation by police departments in Phoenix and other cities into a database that appears to catalog thousands of bigoted or violent social media posts by active-duty and former officers .
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, a black woman, has moved some officers to “non-enforcement” assignments while the department looks into Facebook posts she called “embarrassing and disturbing.”
Press conference on Phoenix police pulling gun and threatening family over alleged 4-year-old shoplifter: "This is 2019. It's not 1959. We're not going to be treated as anything less than human beings." https://t.co/H9n7JKbYS7 pic.twitter.com/Wv29uKCexN
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 17, 2019
The database published by Plain View Project earlier this month included nearly 180 posts tied to current Phoenix police officers that disparage Muslims, black people, transgender people and other groups.
Gov. Doug Ducey called the video of officers pointing guns at the couple unacceptable and disturbing.
“What I know is that there’s more to this story, so I want to let the investigation play out,” the Republican governor said. “I give credit to Chief Williams, who has seemed to be transparent and in the public here to get to the bottom of this.”
Ducey praised police in general, saying he understands the complexities of their jobs, but also said they need to be held to the highest standards.
Mayor Kate Gallego posted an apology to the family Saturday on Twitter. Williams spoke out Friday on Twitter about how the incident was handled and then apologized to the family, community and public during a television interview Sunday.
“I don’t accept the apology,” Harper said Monday, with Ames saying, “It’s not sincere.”
The police chief has said an internal investigation into the officers is underway.
“It’s absolutely absurd you can talk about apologizing and seek to move beyond something without actually disciplining and firing these officers,” said the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a local civil rights advocate who organized the news conference.
The city has organized a community meeting about the encounter Tuesday.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio on Monday defended the way police handled the incident, saying in a Facebook post that the video of the encounter didn’t tell the whole story and was being used to paint a negative picture of the department.
“The actions of the officers appear to be entirely in line with policy,” he said. “There was no use of excessive force. The stop was lawful.”