Update: Around 2 p.m. on Friday, the Phoenix Police Department released a statement containing more information about the events preceding the violent altercation:
"You're gonna fucking get shot!" a Phoenix police officer can be heard screaming in jarring videos that surfaced this week.
The videos show several Phoenix police officers, some with guns drawn, surrounding the car of a couple and their two young children. It's unclear what preceded the encounter, but the young couple said it all began after their daughter walked out of a Family Dollar with a doll.
Phoenix police say they're investigating the incident.
Video of a May 29 encounter with Phoenix police near 36th and Roosevelt streets shows several Phoenix officers surrounding the parked car of 22-year-old Dravon Ames and his pregnant fiancée, 24-year-old Iesha Harper. In the video, officers can be heard screaming and cursing at the couple, who also have two young children in the car, to "put your fucking hands up."
One officer can be seen pointing a gun at the car with 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 2-year-old daughter out of her arms.
"We're thinking we're gonna get shot cause he kept threatening, 'I'm gonna shoot you in the face,'" Ames said on Wednesday. "We were so scared."
The 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 did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking more information about the encounter, but they did release a statement on Facebook saying they are investigating the incident.
"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," police said.
"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," the statement said.
Ames told Phoenix 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.
Ames says someone at the store told an officer on security detail that his daughter had stolen from the store, and that's why police approached him in the parking lot. He also said that despite being detained in the back of police vehicles, both he and Harper were not arrested or ticketed. He says they were released without charges after a lieutenant came and defused the situation.
Court records do not show that Harper or Ames were arrested that day. Harper does not appear to have a criminal record. Ames was arrested in Tempe on alcohol-related charges last year, though court records indicate Ames has appeared in court to deal with the case as it proceeds, so it is not clear if there is any connection between that case and the May 29 encounter. New Times checked court records to determine if there was a reason (like an open warrant for a serious crime) that could explain why so many officers responded to a little girl stealing a doll from a dollar store in such an aggressive manner, but there was not.
The family is holding a press conference outside City Hall today and plans to file a lawsuit.
This is a breaking story and may be updated
Correction: This story previously misspelled Harper's first name.
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Update: Around 2 p.m. on Friday, the Phoenix Police Department released a statement containing more information about the events preceding the altercation. The statement indicates the officers did not believe the family to be in possession of any weapons. Police say they pursued the family because they allegedly stole food and underwear from a dollar store.
"On May 27, 2019, at approximately 11:17 a.m., a Phoenix Police Officer was investigating an unrelated shoplifting at a store in the area of 1600 N. 36th Street, when he was advised by store employees of another shoplifting. The officer was directed to some individuals who were getting into a vehicle. He observed a woman drop a “food foil,” when she saw him. As he walked towards the vehicle, the car quickly backed up and started to leave parking lot. It stopped at McDowell Road, and one of the women got out and the car drove away. The woman was detained by the officer. It was later found the woman he detained had three misdemeanor warrants for her arrest. She was later booked for the warrants.
A description of the vehicle was broadcasted over the radio. The vehicle was located a short distance from the store near 32nd Street and McDowell Road and followed it was followed into the parking lot of an apartment complex in the area of 3200 E. Roosevelt Street, where a man and woman in the car were taken into custody and detained. After being advised of her rights, the woman who had been detained, said her aunt and child went into the store and when she saw her child walk out of the store with a doll, she believed they had stolen it, because they didn’t have any money.
She heard the officer who approached the car in the parking lot tell the driver to stop several times, but he didn’t. After being advised of his rights, the man said he knew they had shoplifted from the store and that he threw a pair of underwear out the window, because he knew they were stolen. In addition, he stated he knew he was driving on a suspended driver license. Because the property was returned, the store employees said they did not desire prosecution, so no one was charged with the shoplifting. The man however, was cited and his vehicle was impounded, due to his driving on a suspended license."