A Phoenix couple has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city after a video showed police officers arresting and drawing a gun on them after their 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a doll.
Dravon Ames and his fiancee, Iesha Harper, had just left a dollar store on May 29 with their daughters, ages 1 and 4, and were in their car when they realized the older girl had taken a doll, according to a notice of claim filed Wednesday with the city.
The couple drove the girls to their babysitter at an apartment complex nearby, where they were stopped and confronted by police in the parking lot.
Phoenix police, who said they are conducting an internal investigation of the incident, released a video Tuesday shot by a bystander showing an officer appearing to push a handcuffed man, believed to be Ames, against the side of a car and kicking his legs.
Other officers could be seen handcuffing Harper after an unidentified woman came to take care of her two small children.
"When I tell you to do something, you f------ do it!" an officer could be heard screaming at the handcuffed Ames.
The cuffed man appeared to be complying as he was picked off the ground and thrown against a police vehicle.
"I’m sorry, I’m sorry," the man said.
The officer repeated, "When I tell you to do something, you f------ do it!"
Footage from another, ground-level angle, showed an officer with a drawn gun repeatedly yelling, “Get your f------ hands up!”
Harper said at a news conference this week that she was trying to tell the officers that she was in a backseat with her kids and couldn't immediately get out of the car.
“We're yelling out, ‘The door doesn’t open that side. It doesn't open.’ Obviously I don’t have a gun with two kids in my hands," Harper said.
One of the officers told Harper, "I could have shot you in front of your f------ kids," according to the claim filed by the family's lawyer, Thomas Horne, a former attorney general for the state.
The Phoenix Police Department confirmed that officers had taken "two individuals into custody while investigating a shoplifting incident."
Police reports released Friday said the 4-year-old had walked off with a boxed doll.
"A review of video surveillance showed a four year old girl walking out of the store with a baby doll, passing all open and operating points of sale, without anyone attempting to pay for the item," police said in a report.
Another report said the parents told police they were unaware their daughter had taken the doll and she must have done it unintentionally.
Officers claimed Ames took a pair of underwear and that a woman with the couple, identified as Renita Biscoe, 48, had an item in her possession but dropped it as police arrived. They also claimed Biscoe gave them a fake name.
Biscoe was in the vehicle after it left the store but was dropped off before police caught up with it, according to officers' statements. One officer said she had asked the couple for a ride.
Officers later found Biscoe and arrested her on outstanding warrants, police said in the reports.
The store, a Family Dollar location, ultimately did not want to press a shoplifting charge because items had been recovered, police said, adding that Ames tossed the underwear out the window of the vehicle he was driving.
After officers caught up with Ames and Harper, they discovered Ames was driving on a suspended license and cited him, according to a Phoenix Police Department statement released Friday. The vehicle, a Hyundai SUV, was impounded.
"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 statement said.
Horne said the officers acted against the family based on an anonymous tip and not from information from any employee at the dollar store.
The claim alleges the officers committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest and other civil rights violations.
The family is asking for $2.5 million for each parent and each child, according to the notice of claim.