Phoenix mayor apologizes after police
pull gun on parents of alleged child shoplifter
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[June 17, 2019]
(Reuters) - The mayor of Phoenix
apologized and called a community meeting for this week amid public
anger over a viral video showing police pointing a gun at the parents of
a 4-year-old child over allegations she shoplifted a doll.
Cellphone video showed a Phoenix officer drawing his weapon and shouting
profanities after a father, mother and two young daughters left the
Family Dollar store on May 27. The parents were unaware one of their
girls took a doll without paying for it, according to the family. Police
said they were tipped off to the theft by employees.
Officers confronted the family in the parking lot of a nearby apartment
complex, with at least one pulling his gun, cursing at the adults and
yelling at them to put up their hands, while threatening to shoot them
if they failed to comply, according to the cellphone video.
Mayor Kate Gallego wrote on Twitter late on Saturday that the incident,
which sparked anger on social media, made her feel "sick." She
apologized to the family and noted that the city would speed up the
rollout of body-worn cameras so that every police precinct has them by
"There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to
acceptable," Gallego said on Twitter. "As a mother myself, seeing these
children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting."
The footage, filmed by a bystander, shows 24-year-old Iesha Harper
getting out of a car with her two daughters, London Drake, 1, and Island
Drake, 4, holding one of the girls in her arms. She is then shouted at
by another officer as a third puts her 22-year-old fiance, Dravon Ames,
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Thomas Horne, a lawyer representing the couple, said the officers
committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction
of emotional distress and violation of the family's civil rights.
In a letter to the city last week, he said the family was willing to
settle the case for $10 million.
Police have launched an internal investigation. They said the
officers involved had been assigned to desk duty.
The mayor called a community meeting for 6 p.m. on Tuesday and said
Police Chief Jeri Williams would be there.
"I recognize that to get to the bottom of this issue and implement
meaningful change, we are going to have some uncomfortable and
painful conversations," the mayor tweeted.
Williams said in a Facebook post that she was "disturbed by the
language and the actions" of the officers.
"As soon as I was aware of the video, I began an immediate internal
investigation," Williams said. "I assure you that this incident is
not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers who
serve this city."
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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