PHOENIX - A shoplifting incident led to a violent encounter between Phoenix police officers and a Valley family last month, which has gained national attention since videos of the confrontation emerged last week.
After the videos surfaced, Dravon Ames and his fiancée Iesha Harper announced a $10 million notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the City of Phoenix.
The incident in late May stemmed from a reported shoplifting incident at a Family Dollar store in the area of 32nd Street and McDowell Road. Employees reported the incident after the couple's 4-year-old daughter Island allegedly stole a doll.
Ames and Harper say it was all over their 4-year-old taking the doll. Police Chief Jeri Williams said officers received a report that adults were shoplifting.
On Monday, police released three clips of redacted surveillance video from the store "which shows the activities of the individuals, while they were inside the store, which led to employees contacting the police."
While the couple was taking their two daughters to the babysitter to an apartment complex nearby, they got stopped by police and a confrontation escalated, according to the notice of claim.
The police report says the suspect car fled from an officer who told them to stop and was headed west on McDowell Road. Another officer said he followed the car to a nearby apartment complex.
The family states there were never any sirens and they did not know police were pulling them over.
After the officer made contact, the police report says when the officer told Harper to raise her hands in the air, she refused and said, "I have my child in here, I am not putting my hands up."
The officer said in the report that Harper kept her hands down by the seat and that he feared she was hiding something or reaching for a weapon.
The couple said officers were pointing guns at them in front of their daughters, saying things like, "I'm going to shoot you in your f------ face," according to the notice of claim.
Videos from witnesses show officers pointing guns at the parents and shouting at them. There are multiple instances where the officers threaten to shoot them in front of their children.
The police report says more officers arrived, and Ames was told to get out of the vehicle and walk toward them. Police said he did so while loudly saying he did nothing wrong.
In video of the incident, an officer can then be seen sweeping the legs of the man in handcuffs and he shouts, "If I tell you to do something, you f------ do it," and Ames responds, "I am."
WATCH: This video syncs the perspectives of two citizen-shot videos of the confrontation May 27 between Phoenix police and Dravon Ames and fiancee Iesha Harper outside a Phoenix apartment complex. The first voice heard shouting at the couple is that of Officer Christopher Meyer, a 24-year veteran. The officer who enters about 40 seconds later hasn't been identified by Phoenix police. A spokesman told 12 News the officer has been on the force about 11 years. WARNING: Some viewers might find the language in these videos offensive.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams joined Team 12's Brahm Resnik on "Sunday Square Off" for a live interview discussing an incident that has put the department in the national spotlight.
You can see the full interview below:
On Sunday morning's "Sunday Square Off," Chief Williams said, "What we saw in that video isn't in keeping with good policing, it's unacceptable. I apologized to the family for the interaction and to be honest with you, I'm apologizing to the community too because that is not what should have happened in that circumstance."
Williams said there is more to the story, discussing conflicting information in the police reports and the statements from the family.
Williams said the behavior displayed by officers in the video is "unacceptable" but said everyone is entitled to due process, which is why the department is making the investigation into this incident a top priority.
"Having been a cop for 30 years, you kind of sit back and say, 'What was going on,'" Williams said. "That's what we need to address."
Once she saw the video, Williams said she immediately took the officers involved off patrol and reassigned them to a desk where they don't have interaction with people in the community while the investigation is ongoing.
12 News learned there are two main officers under investigation from the video. One seen in the video is a 24-year police veteran, Officer Christopher Meyer. The other is an officer that has been on the force for about a year.
"I am with everyone in the community who is angry, who is outraged. I have officers out there who are angry and outraged to see this is what brush we are being painted with when I know we that we're better than that, I know this department is better than that, I know our community is better than that but at the end of the day I have to take responsibility and be accountable," Williams said.
Williams said the officers involved were not wearing body worn cameras because the department has not rolled out cameras to that precinct yet.
Williams said that due to the public attention on the incident, she plans to have this investigation completed in a much shorter time frame than normal.
"I'm aware that people don't want to wait," Williams said. "It's going to shorten [the process] by months."
After the comments made by Williams over the weekend, the family held another press conference in response on Monday.
"We've been aware of an apology from the mayor and the chief, and honestly, it really hasn't done anything to help us because it feels like it's a half apology," Ames said.
Ames said he and his family are disappointed in the fact that the officers are still working. Williams said the officers were taken off patrol and assigned to desks.
"The officers are still working, it's just basically a slap in the face, it's like putting some lemon juice on an open wound," Ames said. "It's hurting us even more that they're still working and nothing's being done to the officers. Nothing's being done for us as far as seeing any justice."
12 News learned on Tuesday Ames was charged last month with two felony counts for assaulting two police officers after a crash in Oct. 2018, court documents say.
Ames was charged last month with two felony counts for assaulting two police officers, according to court documents.
Police said he was behaving erratically after his vehicle was involved in a collision. Court documents say Ames was twisting and flailing his arms at the officers and say he tried to kick one officer in his groin and took several swings at the other officer.
We spoke to a criminal defense attorney, Robert J. McWhirter, who has no connection to the case, about what Ames' prior charges could mean for this case.
McWhirter says it's possible the officer involved, Christopher Meyer, could have been informed of the charge against Ames on his way to the scene.
"The officer may have known that or he may not have," McWhirter said. "And you can maybe give the officer a little bit of extra slack if this person has an assault charge."
But McWhirter says that is not enough to support the officer's conduct.
"That, however, doesn't really justify pointing guns at pregnant women or ripping children from women's arms who are sitting next to him," McWhirter said.
Ames has a hearing in the assault case scheduled for July.
We still have not heard from Officer Christopher Meyer, a 24-year veteran on the force, or the officer on the force for 11 years also seen in the video backing him up during the confrontation.
A community meeting was held Tuesday night where Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams addressed the community regarding the incident.
The family, alongside Rev. Jarret Maupin and their attorneys, announced a series of protests this week.
Maupin said they would protest at the city council meeting on Wednesday. Another demonstration is scheduled for later in the week.
On Wednesday, we obtained and published audio from the police radio traffic on the day of the incident. On the audio, an officer looking at surveillance video at the Family Dollar while Ames and Harper are being detained says, "we cannot verify anything from the video that they were involved at all."
Ames and Harper were not arrested or charged with shoplifting even though in the police report, an officer says Ames told police he stole underwear. Ames and his family have since denied that.
Team 12's Ryan Cody asked Ames outside of the Tuesday community meeting if he took anything from the store. Ames responds, "no," before refusing to answer further questions.
You can see that clip about one minute into the below video: