In May 2019, a Phoenix Family Dollar store manager called police about a potential shoplifting incident, adding that those he was accusing were getting into their car. The police surrounded a Black family’s car, taking out their guns and cursing at the vehicle’s occupants. As with so many similar acts of police aggression, a video of the scene went viral.
No charges were ever filed.
By a 6-2 vote, on August 26, 2020, the city of Phoenix agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the family for civil rights violations and the use of excessive force. The family will receive $475,000 to compensate for the injuries resulting from the incident. Most of the money is set aside in a structured settlement for their children.
Four Year Old Leaves Stores With Doll
According to the parents, Dravon Ames and Lesha Harper, they left the Family Dollar not realizing their 4-year old daughter had left the store carrying a doll. As they returned to their apartment just one mile away, police followed them.
Ames said the police did not turn on their lights or sirens, but instead, an officer walked up to his car door and shouted for him to go out of the car and that he would shoot him in the face. The couple’s one-year-old daughter was also in the vehicle.
The video shows Ames on the ground, handcuffed. An officer pulls him up and presses him against the squad car. He then kicks Ames’ legs open. According to the lawsuit, the kick caused Ames to collapse.
Harper says as she exited her car, an officer tried to grab her child in order to arrest Harper. It resulted in an injury to the child’s arm. Harper was also five months pregnant at the time.
A resident of the apartment complex recorded the encounter on their cellphone. The police were not wearing body cameras.
Hell Dealing With This
At a press conference, Harper said that her children have suffered from anxiety since the episode. “It’s been hell dealing with my kids and everything that happened,” she said.
One Officer Fired
Officer Chris Meyer lost his job over the incident. Police Chief Jeri Williams said he was terminated because of his handling of the situation, causing “adverse effects on both the PPD and our community.” Another PPD employee, Detective David Swick, was fired due to inappropriate social media posts that violated PPD policy, and another 11 employees received reprimands for such posts.
High Shooting Rate
Perhaps the family – and the police –were lucky. Although guns were waved around, no shots were fired. That is often not the case with the Phoenix Police Department (PPD), which has one of the nation’s highest rates of shootings.
In 2019, the PPD shot at 15 people. However, the prior year, the PPD took part in 44 shootings, and exactly half of them were fatal. 2019 marked the fewest number of PPD shootings in a decade.