Phoenix police chief responds after cops pull gun, threaten parents of alleged 4-year-old shoplifter

Phoenix parents shaken after cops pull gun

The mayor and police chief of Phoenix are apologizing to a family that filed a $10 million civil rights lawsuit over an incident caught on video. Dravon Ames and his pregnant fiancée Iesha Harper say they are still shaken three weeks after their encounter with Phoenix police.

"I'm not able to sleep. I keep having pictures of guns pointed at my face," said Ames.

"I was injured a lot mentally and physically, me and my children," said Harper.

Cell phone video from May 27 shows officers cursing and pointing guns, threatening to shoot, after responding to a report of shoplifting.

Police say it went beyond shoplifting, and that the father refused to comply with commands several times.

The videos don't show the beginning of the confrontation, but the family tells CBS News that police went too far over an accident, and they're demanding the officers and the department be held accountable.

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The incident caught on video shows Phoenix police officers cursing and pointing guns, kicking and threatening to shoot a couple with children after responding to a report of shoplifting. CBS News

The cellphone video shows officers with their guns drawn verbally threatening them repeatedly in front of their two young children.

"I'm gonna put a f*****g cap right in your f*****g head!" yelled one officer. "You're going to f*****g get shot.. Get your f*****g hands up."

"My hands are holding my babies!" Harper replied.

You can see an officer kick Ames in the back of the leg while he is handcuffed.

Ames said, "It hurts a man's pride if you can't protect your family, to hear your daughter screaming and you can't do nothing about it."

Police were responding to a shoplifting incident. The parents' four-year-old daughter took a doll from a dollar store nearby, but police say Dravon Ames also stole a pair of underwear, was driving with a suspended license, and refused their commands to pull over several times, all of which he denies. 

Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist in Phoenix, said, "I don't care if they stole every damn doll from the dollar store; what you see on that tape you cannot justify."

Over the weekend Phoenix's police chief Jeri Williams apologized to Ames and Harper. "This incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix Police officers who serve this city," she said.

But earlier this year, a report commissioned by Williams found that 2018 was Phoenix PD's most violent year on record. There were 44 officer-involved shootings – the most in the country, and more than double the previous year.

In April, CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues asked Williams, "There are some people who think, 'Well, are Phoenix police trigger-happy?"

"So, there are some people who think a lot of things. My agency's unafraid of the truth," Williams replied. "If there's something we can learn, let's learn it, let's fix it."

That report prompted significant changes, including de-escalation courses and implicit bias training. But the family says it hasn't worked.

"Them officers are still basically working. And I feel like there should be justice for us and what we've been through," said Harper.  

The officers involved were placed on desk duty pending the investigation's completion.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego called the incident a "terrifying situation" that was "beyond upsetting." She has already announced new protocols for the city's police departments.

Every precinct's officers will be required to wear body cameras by August.