"I thought we were all going to be executed," said 22-year-old Dravon Ames, whose brutal encounter with Phoenix police last month has made international news. "I haven't been able to sleep at night. I stay up all night and it just keeps flashing back — the gun, a barrel being pointed at my face. I just keep seeing that same thing over and over and over."
Ames, his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, their attorneys, and the family's spokesperson, Jarrett Maupin, spoke outside Phoenix City Hall today. The family said the apologies from Mayor Kate Gallego and Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams seem insincere, since the officer who pointed a gun at the family after their young daughter walked out of a dollar store with a doll is still on the force.
Maupin called on Williams and Gallego to work to change policy to make it easier to fire problematic police officers.
Ames and Harper said that though Williams has made an apology video and talked to the press, no one has apologized directly to them. Instead, the couple said, police issued a 16-page report attempting to vilify the family.
"It's very traumatizing. With all this going on, I still have to see the video, you know," Harper said. "It breaks my heart every time I see the video ... This shouldn't have happened over a baby doll."
Video of the May 27 encounter has since made international news. The family has filed a $10 million notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the city of Phoenix. Phoenix police released a report regarding the incident on Friday afternoon. The report left out many of the key details that by now hundreds of thousands of people around the world saw for themselves in video recorded by residents of the apartment complex where the family was accosted by Phoenix police.
In the video, officers can be heard screaming and cursing at the couple in front of their children to "put your fucking hands up." Ames repeatedly says, "My hands are up! My hands are up!" One officer, now identified as Christopher Meyer, can be heard saying, "I'm gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head" and "You're gonna fucking get shot!"
Another officer can be seen pointing a gun at the car with the children inside. Meyer later attempts to yank Harper's 1-year-old daughter out of her arms and screams at her to place her baby on the scorching hot pavement.
Phoenix police say Meyer is still on duty but is on a "non-enforcement assignment." Gallego said in a statement on Twitter that the actions of several Phoenix police officers were "completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional." She will be holding a community meeting about the incident on Tuesday, June 18, at 6 p.m. at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.
No charges were filed against Harper or Ames, though police gave Ames a ticket for driving with an expired license and impounded his car. Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who is representing the family, said on Monday that Ames did not steal underwear from the dollar store, as Phoenix police have alleged.
Maupin said the police report was full of lies, omitted critical information about how Phoenix police officers treated Harper and Ames, and wrongly painted the couple as petty thieves.
Harper said she didn't see the police until they pulled into the parking lot, and even then, they approached without sirens. She and Ames said they and their families have been traumatized by the incident.
"It feels like it's a slap in the face," Ames said of Williams' apology. "Nothing is being done for us. The officer who did that is still working ... everyone knows he is not fit to be a police officer."
The family, and other people who say they were harmed unjustifiably by Phoenix police like Edward Brown, the family of Michelle Cusseaux, and Jacob Harris, also plan to attend the community meeting tomorrow night. Maupin also said that some artists and businesses plan to boycott the city next week. Jay-Z's entertainment company Roc Nation has offered to provide legal support for Ames and Harper.
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Attorney Sandy Slayton, who was at Monday's news conference, questioned why Harper, who is six months pregnant, was searched by a male officer and said whether or not they stole anything is irrelevant because nothing justifies the actions taken by Phoenix police officers that day.
Horne said the family is seeking $10 million because the violence at the hands of police officers was particularly egregious and traumatizing, considering that the family was compliant with police officers throughout the encounter.
"If you want to apologize to the Ames-Harper family, bring 'em on down and apologize to their face, because when you wanted to tear them down and turn them into a tin foil and underwear thief, you didn't have any problem getting in front of the cameras and saying that," Maupin said. "They tried to destroy this family ... This is what regularly occurs at the hands of this police department."