(TMU) — While viral videos depicting U.S. police meting out unjustifiably excessive force have become increasingly common over the years, new footage from Phoenix, Arizona has once again lowered the bar on what we expect from law enforcement officers and their vicious treatment of unarmed and primarily black citizens.
In a terrifying video that has now gone viral, Phoenix police officers are seen pulling their guns on a pregnant black woman and her young family while shouting hysterically at them, threatening to murder the parents in front of their young daughters over the alleged “shoplifting” of a Barbie-style doll from a 99-cent store.
The Phoenix Police Department has announced on Facebook that they have now opened an investigation into the two officers to determine whether the “allegations of misconduct”—misconduct which is vividly apparent —are justified.
The department, which is already embroiled in a scandal over highly bigoted and racist social media posts made by several officers, has released a 12-minute video of the incident while other video shot by bystanders is going viral.
In footage from May 29, 22-year-old Dravon Ames and his pregnant fiancée Iesha Harper, 24—along with their two young daughters, 4-year-old Island and 1-year-old London—are seen being held at gunpoint by several Phoenix police officers who scream orders at them while cursing and threatening to shoot.
Police were apparently responding to an anonymous caller who notified police about the possible shoplifting of a doll from the local dollar store. According to court documents, the store itself never called the police.
Without any apparent provocation or resistance on the part of Ames and Harper, who were sitting in their vehicle, police can be heard screaming rabidly:
“I’m gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head. Put your fucking hands up!”
“You’re gonna fucking get shot!”
As the couple attempted to comply and get out of the car, Ames is immediately attacked by an officer who begins punching him repeatedly while kicking him in the legs before he is handcuffed and his face is slammed against the car.
Harper, who is visibly pregnant, was then violently dragged from the vehicle and commanded to put her hands up while she was holding her 1-year-old daughter. The officer then demands that she put the baby down on the hot pavement before snatching her daughter from her arms and handcuffing Harper forcefully.
The Phoenix Police Department is investigating after an officer was caught on cell phone video sweeping a man's leg after handcuffing him, while another officer pointed a gun at a pregnant mother and her two daughters.Repost @abcnews••Join Our Facebook & Instagram Family @Pushing_Black••#DrSebi #NickCannon #NipseyHussle #Tupac #ColinKaepernick #IMWITHKAP #MartinLutherKingJr #PushingBlack #ProBlack #ProBlackIsntAntiWhite #unapologeticallyblack #unapologeticallyme #blackempowerment #Blackexcellence #blackculture #blackart #blackartist #photography #portrait #killeverygram #livecreatively #blackfashion #blackfashionblogger #melaningoddess #melaninmagic #blackisbeautiful
Posted by Pushing Black on Friday, June 14, 2019
Neither of the parents were arrested following the encounter, nor were they charged with anything. The couple was promptly released after being handcuffed while outraged onlookers captured video of the incident from various angles.
Later on, it was revealed that the couple’s 4-year-old daughter had indeed mistakenly picked up the cheap doll from the store without the parents knowing.
Harper later said that one officer told her he could have “shot you in front of your fucking kids” as she was being detained.
At a press conference on Thursday, Harper recounted how she feared for her life. She said:
“He just seemed like he was trigger happy, he wanted to shoot someone that day.
He was ready to kill someone, he was bloodthirsty.”
Phoenix police management has refused to name their officer who was captured on video attacking Ames or the officer who told Harper that he could have shot her. A police spokesman told ABC15 that the officer who attacked Ames has been placed on a “non-enforcement assignment” while the one who threatened to murder Harper remains on active duty.
“My hands are up! My hands are up!” 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to “get your fucking hands up.” The same officer later says “You’re gonna fucking get shot!”
Ames says the officers stopped him after his child walked out of a Dollar Store with a doll. pic.twitter.com/Nlkd7IXsyc
— Meg O’Connor (@megoconnor13) June 12, 2019
The couple has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the City of Phoenix and has retained Attorney General Tom Horne.
Their lawsuit explains how the children suffered psychological and physical trauma due to the officers’ actions:
“The first officer pulled the baby by the arm to get her away from the mother, which injured the arm, in a condition known as ‘dead arm.’ Island [the couple’s 1-year-old child] has been having nightmares and wetting her bed, which she has not done before this incident.”
Echoing the outrage of his constituents, state Senator Martín Quezada tweeted his anger over the excessive force deployed by the Phoenix cops:
“This is everything that’s wrong with #LawEnforcement today. My #LD29 #Maryvale community deserves better than this type of inexcusable and unjustifiable rage and abuse of power from the @phoenixpolice. @PHXDistrict5 @PhxDistrict8,”
This is everything that’s wrong with #LawEnforcement today. My #LD29 #Maryvale community deserves better than this type of inexcusable and unjustifiable rage and abuse of power from the @phoenixpolice. @PHXDistrict5 @PhxDistrict8 https://t.co/VXj0myV1Qo
— Sen. Martín Quezada (@SenQuezada29) June 13, 2019
Speaking to Heavy, local Reverend Jarrett Maupin said that the PPD’s claim that an investigation is necessary to ascertain whether excessive force was used is “stunning in its audacity.” Maupin explained:
“Clearly, excessive force was used. Clearly, policies and procedure were not followed. Clearly, body cameras were not being utilized. Clearly, the officers felt empowered to be disrespectful and abusive. What we demand to know is, what kind of background these officers have? They held toddlers and a pregnant woman at gun point, grabbed a mother and infant by the neck, dislocated a 1 year old’s arm, endangered a delicate pregnancy, terrorized and tortured a young father, and nobody was charged or jailed. These officers must be held accountable. We want justice.”
The clergyman added that 10 witnesses to the scene have come forward to assist the family and their attorney as they attempt to force accountability from the violence-prone Phoenix PD. He continued:
“We have an unprecedented number of citizens coming forward to share footage and give eye-witness accounts. So many residents were shocked to see police being so abusive with a pregnant mother and kids. So many people were concerned that the father was going to end up dead because of police brutality and the violence of officers.”
#RT @shaunking: RT @Blackmediagrp: Update!
No Charges Were Filed And The Family Is Suing #Phoenix PD
“Someone Might End Up Dead Next Time, It Might Be A Police Office Cause I Don’t Know Many Black Man Who Would Let Them Put Their Hand On Their Pregnant… https://t.co/YSDxT65Y88
— Dick and Sharon (@DickandSharon) June 14, 2019
Last year, Phoenix ranked as the number one city in the United States in terms of officer-committed shootings, with 44 occurring in 2018—over double the number of police shootings in 2017. In comparison, the country’s largest police department, the New York PD, had 17 officer-committed shootings last year.
The department’s management, headed by Police Chief Jeri Williams—who herself is black—has also been engulfed in controversy after a report last week revealed thousands of racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic and bigoted posts by Phoenix police officers.
Since then, Chief Williams—who arrived in Phoenix after departing her scandal-plagued tenure as the chief of police in Oxnard, California—was forced to place dozens of officers on “non-enforcement assignments” after what she called the “embarrassing and disturbing” revelation.
In a statement, Williams said:
“They completely contradict how the Phoenix Police Department should speak about the members of our community or others.”
The social media posts show Phoenix officers gleefully bragging about their use of excessive violence and brutality against citizens.
In one post, an officer said:
“It’s a good day for a choke hold.”