An incident in Phoenix, Arizona involving a stolen doll and arrest at gunpoint that was caught on video has the mayor apologizing to the family involved and vowing to take action.
An internal investigation has been launched into an arrest of an African-American couple on May 27 after Phoenix police responded to a report of a shoplifting incident at a Family Dollar store. An officer said he approached the vehicle that Dravon Ames, 22, his pregnant fiancée Iesha Harper, 24, and their two daughters London Drake, 1, and Island Drake, 4, were in just as they were exiting the parking lot, Phoenix New Times reports. When the vehicle failed to stop, officers followed it to an apartment complex where the situation escalated rapidly, resulting in the officers — fearing that Ames and Harper were potentially reaching for weapons — drawing their guns on the couple, yelling that they’re “gonna get f***ing shot,” forcefully arresting Ames, and at one point trying to take Harper’s 1-year-old daughter from her arms.
Two videos of the arrest have drawn national attention to the incident. “‘My hands are up! My hands are up!’ 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to “get your f***ing hands up.’ The same officer later says ‘You’re gonna f***ing get shot!'” Phoenix New Times staff writer Meg O’Connor tweeted along with one of the videos Thursday. “Another angle of the incident filmed by a different resident of the apartment complex where Ames and his pregnant fiancee were dropping off their kids with a babysitter show a Phoenix police officer trying to yank the child from the mother’s arms,” she wrote in a tweet featuring the second angle on the incident.
The incident report states that on May 27 officers were called to a Family Dollar store for a different shoplifting call when they were told that two women, Harper and her aunt, had stolen “a bunch” of items. “The officer approached the vehicle, but it backed out of the parking space and headed out of the lot,” the Phoenix New Times reports. “Police followed, and the vehicle stopped to let Harper’s aunt out. One officer stopped the woman, questioned her, checked her ID, and found she had warrants out for misdemeanors; she was then arrested.” Police say surveillance footage shows that Harper’s aunt put items down when she initially saw police approach.
Other officers then tracked Ames and Harper to an apartment complex. “The driver pulled into a parking space and I made contact on the driver side of the vehicle, as the driver’s door opened. I gave loud verbal commands for the occupants of the vehicle to get their hands up,” Officer Christopher Meyer wrote in the incident report. “Dravon began to yell at me that he did not do anything wrong and began to reach toward the center of the vehicle between the front seats. I drew my handgun to contact ready and continued to give him loud commands. Dravon began to comply and put his hands up above the steering wheel.”
“I could see at least two other people in the backseat,” he wrote. “I gave commands to Iesha to raise her hands in the air. She refused to get her hands up and stated, ‘I have my child in here, I am not putting my hands up.’ She continued to refuse to put her hands in the air and continued to keep them down by the seat. I feared that she was hiding something or reaching for a weapon.”
No weapons were found and the sole stolen item in the vehicle turned out to be a doll. “The doll was returned to Family Dollar, officials said,” NPR reports. “And though nobody faced charges stemming from the alleged shoplifting, authorities issued Ames a traffic ticket for driving on a suspended license and impounded his car.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has since issued a statement on the incident, which has “prompted an internal police probe, a $10 million civil rights claim and a chorus of fury on social media.”
“I, like many others, am sick over what I have seen in the video depicting Phoenix police interacting with a family and young children,” Gallego said. “It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional. There is no situation in which this behavior is ever acceptable. As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting. I am deeply sorry for what this family went through, and I apologize to our community,” Gallego said on Twitter Saturday evening. “This is not who we are, and I refuse to allow this type of behavior to go unchallenged.”
She goes on to outline actions taken by the city, including requiring bodycams and a community meeting about the incident.