Phoenix police end silence over controversial doll shoplifting case
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Police Department on Friday ended its silence about an incident that led to a family’s $10 million claim against the city.
Sgt. Tommy Thompson sent an email with information “being provided for clarification” along with the related incident reports about a shoplifting case involving a doll that sparked a potential lawsuit and internal police investigation.
Thompson also went over the details in an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM. “There is some misinformation that’s out there, and we wanted to make sure they [the community] had the correct information,” he explained.
In addition to Thompson, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams posted a video to Facebook on the incident, saying she was “disturbed by the language and actions of our officer.”
Previously, without providing details, police had acknowledged that the department’s Professional Standards Bureau had launched an investigation into how officers treated the family of four.
Thompson’s description diverged from the account of the family on multiple points, including the date it occurred.
Police reports say it happened May 27, but the notice of claim (warning: explicit language) filed Thursday by the family’s attorney, former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, said it occurred “on or about May 29.”
Police became aware of the shoplifting allegations from store employees, according to Thompson, not from an anonymous witness, which was what the notice of claim said.
A police officer was in the Family Dollar store at 36th Street and McDowell Road investigating an unrelated case when employees directed him toward the shoplifting suspects, who were getting into a red Hyundai Santa Fe, Thompson said.
The SUV quickly backed up and drove away, Thompson said, and the officer called it in. Another police unit located the vehicle and followed it into an apartment parking lot near 32nd and Roosevelt streets.
It was there that two bystanders captured cellphone video of the aggressive police response against Dravon Ames, Iesha Harper, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old.
Citing the videos, the family has accused police of battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress and violation of the civil rights.
The videos show an officer roughly handling Ames and at one point kicking his leg after he was handcuffed. They also show an officer with his gun pulled threatening Harper, who is pregnant, and using expletives while she is holding the baby.
A police incident report said Ames began tensing his arms and turning toward the officer while being detained.
The claim says Ames has a limp and can’t stand straight or carry weight as a result of how police treated him. It also says the baby has a condition known as “dead arm” after being pulled by an officer.
Thompson said no injuries were reported to the department.
The family has been saying the whole incident was over a doll the 4-year-old took from the store.
According to Thompson, Ames admitted throwing a stolen pair of underwear out the window, something not mentioned in the notice of claim.
Thompson also said the store chose not to press charges because the doll was returned.
The family’s claim said police impounded the vehicle for no reason. However, Thompson said Ames received a citation and the SUV was impounded because his license had been suspended for a DUI.
Thompson also revealed that third adult was in the car when it left Family Dollar.
The woman, identified as Renita Biscoe in the incident report, was dropped off before the SUV got to the apartment complex. Police detained her and booked her on three misdemeanor warrants for her arrest.
Horne told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Show on Friday that the incident ended when a lieutenant arrived on the scene and told officers to release the couple after they’d been put into police cars.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.