An Arizona couple has filed a $10 million claim against the city of Phoenix after several police officers there repeatedly threatened to shoot them during a physically aggressive encounter. The scene erupted after the couple’s 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a doll from a dollar store, according to the Arizona Republic.
Videos of the May 29 incident, which circulated more recently on social media, show a pregnant woman—24-year-old Iesha Harper—struggling to obey police orders to leave her car as she holds her two small children. At one point, while the children are still in the vehicle, a police officer can be seen pointing a gun at the car as another yells, “You’re going to fucking get shot.”
At another point, one of the officers shouts at the girl’s father, 22-year-old Dravon Ames, “I’m going to put a fucking cap in your fucking head.”
According to Ames, the incident started when police (who appear in the videos to be mostly white) approached Ames and Harper (who appear black) after they had parked at their babysitter’s apartment complex. Before the encounter, someone anonymously called the police to report that the couple’s daughter had stolen a doll from a nearby Family Dollar. The couple believes the daughter took the toy by accident. Ames says in the filing that the officers hadn’t used their lights or sirens before walking over to their parked car.
In a video that a resident of the apartment complex recorded, an officer can be seen pointing his gun and shouting at Ames and Harper—who are inside the car with their daughters, ages 1 and 4—to get out. In the claim, Ames says that an officer walked to the backseat door but couldn’t open it because it was broken. He adds that the officer then slammed his fist against the window and told Harper to open the door and put her hands up.
“Get your fucking hands up!” the officer shouts repeatedly in one video, with his gun raised. “I’m going to put a fucking cap in your fucking head.” She shouts at the officers that she can’t open the door. “I promise, it doesn’t open,” Ames can be heard saying. “You’re going to fucking get shot,” an officer screams at him in response.
When Harper complains in the same video that she has her children with her, one officer replies, “I don’t fucking care, put your hands up.” Harper, audibly in distress, repeats: “I can’t put my hands up, I have a fucking baby in my arms, I can’t, I’m pregnant.”
According to the claim, one of the officers told Harper, “I could have shot you in front of your fucking kids.”
Meanwhile, the filing says, another officer pointed his gun at Ames in the front seat and pulled him out of the car. Another video shows Ames lying on the ground while an officer handcuffs him. According to the claim, the officer then stood Ames up, told him to spread his legs, and kicked him in his right leg. (One of the videos shows the kick.) The claim reports that Ames then collapsed, and the officer pulled him back up again, before punching him in the back as he pushed him against the police vehicle.
“When I tell you to do something, you fucking do it!” an officer can be heard shouting at the handcuffed Ames in one bystander video. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Ames says. The officer pushes him against the vehicle and repeats the same line. “You’re not compliant with me,” the officer screams. “I am,” Ames says, in what seems to be a confused voice.
Around the same time, the complaint recounts, when Harper stepped out of the car, one of the officers tried to take one of her daughters from her as he took Harper into custody. In the filing, she says he ordered her to place her 1-year-old daughter on the hot pavement, and that she refused. In the video, as the officers surround her and she holds the 4-year-old by the hand and the 1-year-old in her arms, she says, while crying, “This is all for nothing.” She hands off her children to another woman at the apartment complex to allow the police to handcuff her.
In their claim—which the couple filed Thursday, requesting $2.5 million in compensation for each family member—Harper and Ames say the police officers’ actions amounted to battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, and a violation of their civil rights that left them with emotional distress. They claim the officer harmed their 1-year-old daughter when they pulled her arm and harmed Ames when they arrested him.
The couple also say they kept Ames in the back of the police car for a half-hour and that they were only released after another police lieutenant arrived at the scene. Neither was formally arrested or charged with a crime.
Phoenix police, who have not released the officers’ names, have said they are investigating the incident. “The Phoenix Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and for this reason, this incident is currently being investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau,” the police statement said. Phoenix told ABC 15 that the officer who cursed at, threatened, and kicked Ames is on a “non-enforcement assignment.” The officer who pointed a gun at Harper and her children inside the vehicle remains on patrol.