Days after a video went viral showing Phoenix police officers aiming guns at a black family ― including a pregnant mother and her child ― the father is speaking out, rejecting the city’s apologies as “a slap in the face.”
In a news conference Monday, 22-year-old Dravon Ames dismissed the statements from Mayor Kate Gallego and the police department as worthless.
“Honestly, it really hasn’t done anything to help us because this feels like it’s a half apology, like the officers are still worthy, and it’s just basically a slap in the face,” Ames said. “It’s like putting some lemon juice on an open wound. It’s just hurting us even more.”
Ames said the officers “are not fit to be policing.”
Police responded to a report of shoplifting on May 27. When they arrived at the store, officers began shouting at Ames, his 24-year-old fiancée, Aisha Harper, and their two children, ages 1 and 4.
In video footage of the confrontation, a police car can be seen stopped in a parking lot near the family’s car. An officer who is not yet visible in the video can be heard saying, “I’m going to fucking put a cap in your fucking head,” and, “You’re going to fucking get shot.”
Seconds later, another officer moves toward the family’s vehicle with his gun drawn, demanding that Harper “get out the fucking car” and put her hands up as she tells him she cannot because she’s holding a baby.
Meanwhile, Ames is brought over to the side of a police vehicle, where it appears he is slammed against the vehicle as an officer shouts, “When I tell you to do something, you fucking do it.” It is not evident from the video that Ames was uncooperative.
According to the family’s written account of the event, at the start of the incident, an officer opened the car door with his gun pulled and told Ames, “I’m going to put a cap in your ass.” Later, the officer said, “I’m gonna shoot you in your fucking face,” the account read. Both statements were allegedly made as the couple’s children sat in the backseat.
On Friday, Police Chief Jeri Williams released a taped message calling the event disturbing and announcing that she had started an internal investigation, though she did not offer an apology.
Taking a different tone, Gallego released a statement Saturday deeming the officers’ actions “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.”
“There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable,” she said. “As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting.”
The mayor then apologized and vowed not “to allow this type of behavior go unchallenged.”
“It seems like she wants to protect what the officer did instead of knowing that that was just injustice, that was inappropriate and it just wasn’t right,” he said. “She seems like she’s not fully apologizing.”
According to a police department fact sheet shared on Facebook, Ames said he stole a package of underwear, and Harper said she believed his daughter stole a doll since she thought the family didn’t have enough money to buy it. The store manager chose not to prosecute, and no arrests were made, yet questions are being raised over the aggressive response by police.
The department has faced scrutiny in the past for providing misleading accounts of their interactions with the public, which have later been contradicted by evidence. As a recent New York Times report noted, criticism has been raised over three separate cases dating back to 2017 in which officers’ versions of events contained inaccuracies.