Iesha Harper, 24, and her fiance Dravon Ames, 22, are suing the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department for $10 million.
Video from May 27, that has since gone viral, shows police drawing their weapons and threatening to shoot them after responding to an allegation that the young Black couple’s 4-year-old daughter had walked out of a Family Dollar Store with a $1 Baby Alive doll.
The video of the crazed police officers did not come from police body cameras, which the assaulting officers had judiciously turned off, but from courageous bystanders.
After tailing the couple to the home of their babysitter, footage shows the amped up police charge the vehicle guns in hand, one officer yelling profanities and threats at Ames while another points his gun at Harper, who is pregnant, as well as the couple’s 1 and 4-year-old daughters.
“My hands are up, my hands are up,” Ames said. One officer responded by screaming a barrage of murder threats: “You’re gonna get f-king shot,” “I’m gonna f-king put a cap right in your f-king head.”
Harper can be heard pleading with one gun-toting officer not to point his weapon at her children.
Ames was hauled out of his vehicle, slammed into the police car and concrete, punched in the back and kicked in the legs. He was not the only family member the police injured.
As one officer attempted to arrest Harper, the video shows that he grabbed her and her 1-year-old baby around both of their necks, then tried to yank the baby away from her mother by the arm, injuring the child’s shoulder. Police handcuffed Harper and sadistically remarked, “I could have shot you in front of your f-king kids.”
After the armed police rampage, no charges and no arrests were made, and not even a ticket was issued against the innocent family, although in one final frustrated act of intimidation the police impounded Ames’s car.
National outrage prompted apologies from Mayor Kate Gallegos and Police Chief Jeri Williams that were described as “half-apologies” by Harper and Ames. “The officers are still working. It’s just basically a slap in the face,” said Ames during a press conference.
On June 18, nearly 3,000 people packed the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church for a town hall meeting to express their outrage and recount their own abuse at the hands of the Phoenix Police Department. The frustration was palpable. Community members and organizers skewered the Mayor and Police Chief with accounts of police criminality: killings, abuse, sexual violence and humiliation. Their brave testimonies were met with indifferent silence by Williams and Gallegos.
Williams spoke about halfway through the event, assuring the crowd, “I hear what you say. I’m listening.” The crowd responded, “No you’re not!”
In one revealing moment, Williams, visibly defensive, stated, “Real change doesn’t start with our police department, real change starts with our community,” eliciting boos and jeers from the audience that she had just shifted the blame onto. How the “community” might “change” to prevent homicidal racist police from whipping out their pistols over alleged doll-thefts by 4-year-old children is anyone’s guess.
Williams, sticking to the public relations play book on cop violence, then predictably cited the bad-apple theory, stating, “This incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers.”
This is an astonishing claim from Phoenix’s top cop considering that on average, from 2011 to 2018 Arizona police officers shot someone every five days; in 2018 Phoenix police shot at more people than cops in any other city in the United States, including New York City.
Latinos and whites were shot most often, at rates proportional to their population sizes. Blacks and Natives on the other hand were shot at rates double and triple their population numbers.
Not only that, but a recent review by the Plain View Project of public Facebook posts and comments by current and former Phoenix police officers found that 97 officers made 179 “questionable” posts, many endorsing violence against Mexicans, Muslims, women and defendants. One 12-year Phoenix officer, Joshua Ankert, wrote, “CONGRATULATIONS GEORGE ZIMMERMAN!!! Thank you for cleaning up our community one thug at a time,” in July 2013, the day after Zimmerman was acquitted of the racist vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin.
None of these 97 officers have been terminated.
It is clear that the phony “shock” and listening exercises of the police chief and local politicians will bring neither justice nor change. The community will continue to stand with Iesha Harper and Dravon Ames, and fight against the terror of the county’s reigning deadliest police organization.