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Phoenix family in shoplifting incident doesn’t accept mayor, police apologies

(KTAR News/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX — The family who is seeking $10 million from the city of Phoenix for alleged battery and false arrest among other claims said they do not accept the mayor or police chief’s apologies since the officers involved have not yet been fired.

Civil rights activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin, who spoke for the family at a press conference Monday, the third in the past week, said city officials should have spoken to the family directly but instead went on an “apology tour.”

Maupin criticized the town hall that Phoenix Mayor Gallego has planned for Tuesday night, saying it is an effort to distract people from showing up to Wednesday’s city council meeting.

“I didn’t know we elected a deaf mayor. I didn’t know we elected a blind mayor. I didn’t know we elected a dumb mayor,” Maupin said.

“But the fact of the matter is she’s been on Phoenix City Council. … She knows what we want to see happen, and she’s choosing to play politics and trying to put her spin out.”

Maupin accused the Phoenix officers involved in the incident of lying about what happened in the incident report.

“They lied to you about everything. And they forgot to put in the part where they beat the hell out of the father, where they threw the mother belly-first into a car, where they held guns on our children,” he said.

He and the family — Dravon Ames, Iesha Harper, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old — called for the officers involved in the incident to be fired, not just placed on nonenforcement assignment.

Ames and Harper accused the officers of battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress and violation of the civil rights in a notice of claim (warning: explicit language) filed last week.

Videos of the incident, which propelled the case onto national news networks, 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.

Gov. Doug Ducey addressed the incident publicly for the first time Monday, calling the video disturbing and unacceptable.

But he said he knows there’s more to the story and he’s withholding judgment on the officers’ actions until an investigation is done.

Ducey praised Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams’ transparency and said he wants to see equal justice for everyone.

Phoenix Police issued a statement Friday disputing some details of the incident publicized by Maupin, including what day it happened, what the family was accused of and who reported it to them.

The family has been saying the whole incident was over a doll the 4-year-old took from the store.

Williams posted a video to Facebook on the incident, saying she was “disturbed by the language and actions of our officer.”

She told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday that she plans to schedule talks with officers and residents and step up the implementation of body-worn cameras.

Gallego said in a statement Saturday that she is “sick” over what was depicted in the videos.

The community meeting she announced is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church near 14th and Jefferson streets.

Britt London, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, issued a statement about the incident Monday:

“Every day, Phoenix police officers interact with thousands of members of the public in neighborhoods across the city. In each instance, we do our best to protect residents, uphold the law, and keep families and our community safe.

“The vast majority of these interactions go unremarked upon. On occasion, an interaction receives intense scrutiny by the public, the media, the city and the department. That is as it should be – as police officers, each of us must be held accountable under the law. However, accountability first requires the completion of a thorough, fact-based investigation. To hold court using only emotion, without obtaining facts, or ignoring facts, does not benefit our community.

“PLEA has yet to receive the results of the ongoing investigation into the events of May 29, 2019. Until that investigation is complete, we are in no position to explain based on our opinion every moment of the video that has “gone viral.” Such guesswork is not fair to our members or the members of the public who were involved in this incident. Moving forward, we hope reason and calm will soon become part of this community conversation.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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