The Phoenix police officer who pointed his weapon at a family and threatened to fire after their 4-year-old daughter took a baby doll from a Family Dollar Store has been fired.
“In this case, a 240-hour suspension is just not sufficient to reverse the adverse effects of his actions on our department and our community,” Williams said, according to the Associated Press.
A video of the incident went viral over the summer and brought intense scrutiny upon the police force in Phoenix, a city of 1.6 million that led the country in officer-involved shootings last year.
In late May, Dravon Ames and his fiancee, Iesha Harper, said they went on a family outing with their two children, London, 1, and Island, 4. Without the couple’s knowledge, Island took a doll from a Family Dollar Store, according to a notice of claim dated June 12 that was filed by former Arizona attorney general Thomas Horne, who is representing Ames and Harper.
A police patrol unit followed the couple’s car. Once the family members entered their babysitter’s apartment complex, an officer approached their vehicle with his weapon drawn and yanked open the front door, the claim said.
Despite department rules that require police to wear body cameras, the Phoenix officers were not wearing them, the claim said. But passersby recorded the encounter. The police released one video over the summer, but there are others online.
“I’m going to put a cap in your a--,” one officer said to Ames as a second policeman, whose weapon was also drawn and pointed at Ames, walked up to the car, the video shows. “I’m going to shoot you in your f---ing face.”
Both statements, Horne wrote in the claim, were made in front of the couple’s children, who were in the back of the vehicle.
Williams pulled Ames, 22, from the car, pushed his head to the pavement, handcuffed him and yelled that Ames better follow orders, according to the claim. The officer threw Ames against a vehicle, ordered him to spread his legs and “kicked him in the right leg so hard that the father collapsed.” Then the officer dragged him upright and punched him in the back, the claim said.
Once Ames was handcuffed and inside the patrol vehicle, the officers focused their attention on Harper and the children, according to the claim.
The two officers pointed their weapons at the visibly pregnant 24-year-old Harper and her children, the video shows and the claim stated.
“The first officer grabbed the mother and the baby around both of their necks, and tried to take the baby out of the mother’s hand,” the claim alleged. “He told her to put the baby on the ground, which she was unwilling to do because the baby could not walk, and the ground consisted of hot pavement.”
The officer tried to rip Harper’s youngest child from her arms, the claim stated. Eventually he threw Harper, who had handed the children to a bystander, into the police car face-first and then handcuffed her.
“I could have shot you in front of your f---ing kids,” he said, according to the claim.
After video of the altercation went viral online, Williams launched an internal investigation and said she was “disturbed” by what happened. Mayor Kate Gallego said the officer’s behavior was unacceptable and that “seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting.”
But in June, city officials disputed information in the couple’s claim.
In a Facebook post, officials wrote that officers located the vehicle at an apartment complex about a mile away and claim the “male driver” told officers he had stolen a package of underwear, which he had thrown out the window, and that he was driving with a suspended license. Police claim a woman in the vehicle said she believed the child stole the doll and that she heard officers tell “the driver to stop the car several times, but he didn’t.”
According to police, no one was arrested for shoplifting because the store manager declined to prosecute.
Horne denied the department’s version of events at the time.
“There are some things that are true and some we dispute,” he told The Post in June. “None of the discrepancies affect the outrage as to the way the officers treated these people who never resisted and were always compliant.”
After officials announced Williams’s dismissal, and that they had given a written reprimand to a second, unidentified officer, Horne called the move “partial justice.”
“To get full justice, the job is now mine to get it for them with compensation in the lawsuit,” Horne said during a news conference. He had previously filed a $10 million civil claim against the City of Phoenix.
“I think the vast majority of police are fine public servants. In any group, whether it’s lawyers, journalists or anybody else, you get some bad apples,” Horne said, according to the Arizona Republic. “And it’s my job to be sure that justice is done when we do get these bad apples.”
Ames told the Republic that the incident had left his family traumatized.
“It’s been real bad. It’s hard to get over that type of stuff,” he said. “It was a very tragic and traumatizing moment. So to know that he’s been fired is some type of little relief, but there’s still a lot to work on.”