An Arizona couple filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Phoenix claiming police officers committed civil rights violations after video showed them allegedly pointing guns at the two after their 4-year-old daughter stole a doll from a dollar store last month.
Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, of Phoenix, who filed the legal claim on Wednesday, said that on May 29, they went to a Family Dollar Store with their children, London, 1, and Island, 4. Island, they said, took a doll from the store without their knowledge.
The couple said they drove to their babysitter's apartment complex, when a police car pulled up behind them, pulled open the driver's side door of their car and began shouting profanities at them in front of the kids.
The parents said an officer injured London by pulling on one of her arms after the mother refused a command to put the child down because she said the girl couldn't walk and the pavement was hot, and also said Ames was injured by police who erroneously claimed he wasn't complying with their commands after Ames exited the vehicle that the family was traveling in.
An officer is accused of throwing Ames against a vehicle, kicking his leg so hard that Ames collapsed and punching him for no reason. The claim said one of the officers profanely told Ames in front of his children that he was going to shoot him in the face.
Video posted online seemingly shows officers yelling, "Get your f---ing hands up" and "you're gonna get f---ing shot!"
Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams said on Friday that she began an internal investigation as soon as she found out what was happening.
"I, like you, am disturbed by the language and the actions of our officer. I assure you that this incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers who serve this city," Williams said.
The police department claims the incident happened on May 27, and described a different version of events. While the parents' attorney said the child and father were injured in the encounter, police said no injuries were reported to them.
Police, in a Facebook post on Saturday, also said there were other stolen items in the vehicle during the encounter besides the doll.
The department said an officer was at the dollar store on an unrelated shoplifting call when store employees told him about another shoplifting complaint and directed him toward a vehicle that was leaving the parking lot as the officer approached. The officer had told Ames, who was driving the vehicle, to stop, but he didn't, police said.
Another woman who was inside the vehicle was dropped off at another location before the family reached the apartment complex. She had three outstanding misdemeanor warrants and was booked, police said.
Police said Harper, the mother of the two children, remained in the vehicle and later explained that she believed one of her daughters had stolen the doll because they didn't have any money.
Both parents were handcuffed and detained inside police vehicles, but they were eventually released, Tom Horne, an attorney representing the family, said.
No one was charged with shoplifting because the property was returned, and store employees didn't want the case prosecuted, police said. But Ames was given a traffic citation for driving on a suspended license.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement that she's "sick over what I have seen in the video depicting Phoenix police interacting with a family and young children." She called the situation "completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional."
The mayor added the city is "speeding up" the use of police body cameras. "Every single precinct will have body-worn cameras by August," she said.
Rapper Jay-Z's "Team Roc" has reached out to the family to provide legal support, and has called for the police officers involved to be fired.
The officers involved have since been assigned to desk duty as the department investigates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.