The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association was quick to use recently released footage of Dravon Ames' 2018 arrest as a means to justify the actions of Phoenix Police Officer Christopher Meyer and others in May — though PLEA also revealed Phoenix officers were not aware of Ames' previous arrest when they threatened to shoot him.
ABC15 obtained bodycam footage from the Tempe Police Department earlier this month of Ames' 2018 arrest for aggravated assault on a police officer. The videos, taken from the bodycams of three different Tempe police officers, depict a very different encounter between Ames and local police than the one that drew international attention last month.
PLEA shared video of Ames' arrest twice on Facebook, alleging that it shows Ames has a history of being noncompliant with police officers. Yet the shocking videos of Ames' May encounter with Phoenix police appear to show Ames complying with officers' commands to put up his hands, and show he did not resist arrest.
Cellphone footage of Ames' May 27 encounter with Phoenix police went viral. Phoenix police followed the couple into a parking lot after their 4-year-old daughter walked out of a dollar store with a doll and Ames allegedly stole underwear. Phoenix police claimed in May that Ames failed to pull over for police officers.
Yet Ames and his fiancée, Iesha Harper, have stated that there were no lights or sirens when they pulled up to the apartment complex to drop their daughter off at a babysitter. No lights or sirens can be seen or heard emanating from the first police vehicle in the videos.
Video shows Phoenix police officers screaming at Ames, who is in his car with Harper and their two young children, to "Put your fucking hands up!" Ames repeatedly says, "My hands are up! My hands are up!"
Although Ames and his family appear to be complying, Meyer screams at Ames, "I'm going to put a fucking cap in your fucking head" and "You're gonna fucking get shot!" Once Ames is out of the car, Meyer shoves him up against his police vehicle and kicks his legs apart. Another officer has a gun drawn on Harper, who is cradling her 1-year-old child. Meyer comes back over and attempts to yank the baby from her arms. Neither Ames nor Harper were arrested or charged with anything.
The new footage of Ames shows his arrest by Tempe police in October 2018. According to police reports and video footage, Ames strikes another vehicle in the early morning hours of October 31 on his way home from work at an Amazon warehouse. He then gets out of the car and stands in the middle of the road. When Tempe officers approach him, Ames is clearly very out of it, repeating himself and refusing to listen to the officers, who are attempting to get him out of the street.
He resists arrest, prompting a scuffle in which two officers tased him several times. Ames was later charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and a DUI. The case is still making its way through court.
"Welly, welly, well. This model citizen is just a magnet for cops...Maybe he's shopping for a payout of the tax dollars of the hard working, law abiding Arizona communities and settled on Phoenix," PLEA wrote on Facebook. "Can't remember the Mayor of Tempe apologizing for cops doing their jobs last year, but I could be wrong. We wonder what the trial would look like if the Phoenix City Council decides to seek truth and not just pay these people to go away. We might see this story from a point of reason in a trial, where a judge would not allow the clowns to run the circus. Would that be fair to the good people of Phoenix?"
PLEA also confirmed Phoenix officers were not aware of Ames' prior arrest in Tempe when they threatened to shoot Ames and his family for shoplifting.
"While the officers who contacted Mr. Ames in Phoenix didn't know about this incident at the time, this video provides us with perspective about Mr. Ames' previous interactions with police officers," PLEA wrote.
Some of the comments responding to PLEA's post are racist. Others point out that what happened last year in Tempe doesn't justify Phoenix police officers telling Ames they would shoot him in the head in May.
"Just a ghetto family waiting for a payday for being criminals," wrote someone by the name of Fred Wooten. "Good job officers and the FOP for backing the officers ... now this turd and his family need to stop committing crimes and become productive members of society."
"This punk lookin to hit the ghetto lottery," said Jeff Holland.
"It's amazing that criminals are speaking on tv saying that they have rights and are not being treated right," wrote Lola Keller.
"But, he always an innocent victim of a sick society! Some of his ancestors may have been slaves! H Han an unhappy childhood — no one would admit to being his father! [sic]" said Carl Johnoff.
When someone said they could no longer stand to read the comments on PLEA's post "because they are full of hatred" and Ames was "unarmed and cooperating this time," PLEA wrote back: "Refusing commands to show your hands is cooperating?"
From the video, it does not appear that Ames was refusing commands. As can be heard in the video, Ames repeatedly tells Meyer, "My hands are up! My hands are up!" as Meyer is approaching the vehicle with his gun drawn and before Meyer says, "I'm going to put a fucking cap in your fucking head!"
"Pretty outrageous to show something that doesn't even relate to the 2019 incident and even mention that the officers didn't have prior knowledge," wrote Anna Diaz. "What exactly is this supposed to prove? Stop trying to condone this behavior. You know it was wrong."
"Since we're bringing up this man's case from 2018 to justify the officers actions I guess the fact that the same officer was accused of excessive force in 2018 should be contributed to this conversation too!" said someone writing under the username Zammy Idk, linking to a story about prior accusations of excessive force against Meyer.
In the Tempe video, Ames says that he has just turned 22 and has taken his first dab with his coworkers. The officers are notably calm when dealing with Ames, especially in comparison to the Phoenix police officers from the May video. Things get physical when Ames says he's going to leave and asks Officer Cody Conklin for his license back. Conklin tells him he is detained and he's not free to go.
"No, I'm not detained," Ames says. "It's late bro, don't do that to me right now."
"You're not making any sense," Conklin says.
Ames continues to protest and repeat himself, at which point Conklin puts his hand around Ames' wrist. Ames yanks his arm away.
A scuffle ensues, but it's difficult to tell from the bodycam footage what exactly happens. Ames flails and kicks his legs. Both Ames and the officer fall to the ground. Officer Cameron Payne says, "he tried to kick me in the nuts." Ames screams repeatedly as the officers wrench back his arms and struggle to detain him.
In the video, it appears Ames managed to crawl away slightly, then officers stand up and tase him. According to the police report, Ames grabs Conklin's face, so Conklin punches Ames in the face three to five times.
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"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Ames screams as he lays on the ground with his hands out in front of him. "Please stop, please stop! Please don't do it!"
The officers hold Ames at taser-point. Another officer arrives and handcuffs Ames, who continues to shout and repeat himself, clearly still out of it. At one point, one officer accuses Ames of breaking the other's arm. (He didn't, but he did jam Payne's thumb). Conklin says, "I broke his nose." Later, Conklin says Ames reached for his gun, so they tased him.
Ames has pleaded not guilty to assault on an officer (but pleaded guilty in June to the DUI) and alleges that the officers fabricated the assault charges against him in an attempt to justify his beating.