On Tuesday, NBC News reported that one of the Phoenix police officers who pulled a gun and threatened to shoot a pregnant mother of two, while she held her one-year-old in her arms and her four-year-old by the hand—all because the four-year-old walked out of a Family Dollar store with a doll—will be fired. Officer Chris Meyer, who was on leave while a department Disciplinary Review Board investigated this event, has been fired. He can appeal his termination.
In May, after visiting a dollar store in Phoenix, Arizona, with their young children, and heading back to an apartment complex to drop the kids at a babysitter, Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper found themselves descended upon by a swarm of police. You see their four-year-old daughter—not their other one-year-old daughter who doesn’t walk yet—had taken a doll out of the store without paying for it. After shouting Ames into his car, with the door closed, they pulled out their guns, trained them on Iesha Harper—who was holding her kids in the backseat of the car. The situation escalated with police officers treating the family and their children like they had just come out of a bank brandishing semi-automatic rifles. Expletives and threats to kill both parents were hurled by officers at the family during the arrests.
As attested by witnesses and video, nothing in this situation could explain the police response to a report of “shoplifting.” According to a $10 million lawsuit the family filed against the city, after one officer ripped Iesha’s one-year-old out of her arms and handed the child to a bystander, he said “I could have shot you in front of your fucking kids.” Yes. Everybody knows that police officers can shoot people and will shoot people in front of virtually anybody at any time. It’s the nature of police with guns: they shoot bullets at people and things.
Phoenix police tried to push the they’re no angels angle by releasing security footage that they said showed Ames shoplifting underwear from the store—items that were not found when police arrested them. Police claimed that Ames told them he had thrown the underwear out of the window, a claim the couple denied. An important note here is that IF Ames had indeed stolen a pair of underwear, from the Family Dollar store, the response by police would still warrant this officer to be fired. If Ames had stolen 100 pairs of underwear from the Family Dollar store, this police response would still warrant Chris Meyers lose his job.
Police Chief Jeri Williams was under a great deal of pressure from the Phoenix community. Back in June, after video of the incident became more public, Williams spoke at a community meeting and her attempts at evading larger responsibilities did not fool anybody in attendance, as reported by NBC News back in June.
"Real change starts with the community," Williams said to a sometimes hostile crowd comprised mainly of blacks and Hispanics.
"Real change starts with the firing of the officers! Fire them!" one woman shouted toward the stage, where Williams, who is herself black, was seated next to Mayor Kate Gallego and other Phoenix city leaders.
As for the officer who was fired, Chris Meyers, he’s the police officer in the video pulling his gun out and heightening the situation into an almost tragedy. In the video above, another officer can be seen kicking at Ames while he presses him up against a car, saying “When I tell you to do something, you fucking do it!” If you go by the video evidence, the decision to fire Meyers would normally be a no-brainer; but as we have seen time and time again, this kind of behavior is almost never satisfactorily handled. Police Chief Williams also said another officer who “did attempt to deescalate the situation” was given a written reprimand. If that officer is the one screaming at Ames while he attempts to handcuff him for having a four-year-old who took a doll out of a Family Dollar store without paying for it, I think he might need more than a stern letter.
Ames and Harper’s lawsuit includes allegations against the officers for battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, and numerous civil rights violations. The Family Dollar store refused to press charges as the doll was returned. Phoenix police did not charge the four-year-old girl.