A Phoenix man says apointing guns at his family last month "saved us from all getting killed." The video released Friday appears to show Phoenix police officers, responding to a report of shoplifting, pointing guns and yelling profane commands at Dravon Ames and his pregnant fiance Iesha Harper, who was holding their 1-year-old child.
The parents say their 4-year-old daughter had stolen a doll from a Family Dollar store, unbeknownst to them. They have filed a $10 million claim against the city alleging civil rights violations by police officers.
The cellphone video shows officers with their guns drawn verbally threatening Ames and Harper repeatedly in front of their two young children.
"I'm gonna put a f***ing cap right in your f***ing head!" yelled one officer. "You're going to f***ing get shot.. Get your f***ing hands up."
"My hands are holding my babies!" Harper replied.
The video also shows an officer kicking Ames in the back of the leg while he is handcuffed.
"I was very much in fear for my life, in fear for my family's lives," Ames said, speaking at a press conference Monday with Harper, supporters and family attorneys. "I thought we were all going to be executed."
Harper said the officer's awareness of the bystander recording the video may have had an effect on the officer's behavior, though he said the officer "still felt like he can do what he wanted." The video has drawn national outrage and led the Phoenix mayor and police chief to issue apologies.
Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams said in a video released Friday afternoon that she began an internal investigation as soon as she was made aware of the video. The investigation is ongoing.
"I, like you, am disturbed by the language and the actions of our officer. I assure you that this incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers who serve this city," Williams said.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego called the incident a "terrifying situation" that was "beyond upsetting."
But Ames and Harper said the apologies ring hollow because the officers involved haven't been held accountable. They called for them to be fired.
"When the chief has to speak, she always has something to say about her officers, justifying what they did," Harper said. "I didn't like that, so I don't accept her apology."
Harper said both of her young children are "terrified" and "traumatized" after the incident and having trouble sleeping. She said she has always taught her older daughter to trust police officers, but the girl "had to find out herself that she cannot depend on police."
"We've got to try to explain to them that all cops aren't bad, but that was her first impression," Ames said.
Harper said it "breaks her heart" every time she sees the video.
"It still hurts. It haunts me," Harper said. "It shouldn't have happened over a baby doll or whatever the case may be they wanted to say. That still doesn't justify their actions, period."
Earlier this year, a report commissioned by Williams found that 2018 was Phoenix Police Department'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."
Police say 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. The family maintains police following them from the Family Dollar store to a parking lot at their babysitter's house, where the incident occurred. They say officers never turned on their lights or indicated they should pull over. No one was charged with shoplifting because the property was returned and store employees didn't want the case prosecuted, police said.
Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist in Phoenix, said the police account of events was "full of lies" and that officials were attempting to criminalize the family.
Maupin said the family has not received a face-to-face apology. He called on leaders to flood a Tuesday community meeting on the incident as well as a Wednesday Phoenix City Council meeting.