Obtained by ABC News

Phoenix couple in viral-video arrest, community activist vow to 'shut down' mayor's town hall

June 18, 2019 - 4:42 pm

Obtained by ABC News(PHOENIX) -- A Phoenix couple at the center of a viral-video arrest say they will confront the city's mayor and police chief at a community meeting Tuesday night about why police officers who pulled guns on them and their children last month and threatened to shoot them have not been stripped of their badges.

Dravon Ames, 22, and Iesha Harper, 24, who is six months pregnant, said it will be the first time they will get the chance to vent their anger face-to-face with city leaders over the way they were treated during the May 27 encounter with police, a terrifying episode one of their attorneys described as "barbaric."

And they won't be alone.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist and community organizer for the National Action Network, said he plans to "shut the meeting down." He said he intends to show up with people who were shot by Phoenix police, lost loved ones to officer-involved shootings or were the victims of brutality at the hands of officers.

Mayor Kate Gallego ordered the community meeting after cell phone videos surfaced last week showing officers screaming profanities at Ames and Harper, manhandling both of them and pointing guns at them and their children, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, after they were accused of shoplifting at a Family Dollar store.

"We owe it to our residents to give them an open forum to discuss their concerns with us and to propose solutions," Gallego said in a statement.

"We will be at the mayor's meeting, not to attend," Maupin said at a news conference on Monday, adding that "the family says they feel like it is a farce town hall."

He said others planning to go to the meeting include Edward Brown, 35, who was paralyzed on Aug. 5, 2018, when he was shot in the back by a Phoenix police officer investigating drug activity in an alley; the family of Jacob Harris, a 19-year-old shot to death by an officer on Jan. 11 after he was suspected of being involved in an armed robbery; and relatives of Michelle Cusseaux, 50, who was fatally shot by a police officer sent to her apartment as part of a court-ordered mental health pick-up in 2014.

Maupin said he and other concerned community residents also plan to pack Wednesday's Phoenix City Council meeting "and shout for justice."

At a Monday press conference, Ames and Haper said they rejected apologies from Gallego and Police Chief Jeri Williams.

"We've been aware of apologies from the mayor and the chief and, honestly, it hasn't done anything to help us because it feels like a half apology. The officers are still working. It feels like a slap in the face. It's like putting some lemon juice on an open wound," Ames said.

A day earlier, Williams said in an interview with ABC affiliate station KNXV-TV in Phoenix that she has "apologized to the family. I've apologized to the community."

Ames and Harper said they haven't been contacted by Williams or Gallego.

Both Ames and Harper said they feared they were going to be shot during the May 27 encounter.

"I'm replaying those images of a barrel in my face over and over. I'm seeing that a lot," Ames told ABC News.

Williams immediately ordered an investigation and placed officers involved in the incident on desk duty.

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Britt London released a statement Monday asking the community to be patient until all the facts of an investigation come out.

"On occasion, an interaction receives intense scrutiny by the public, the media, the city, and the department," London said. "That is as it should be -- as police officers, each of us must be held accountable under the law. However, accountability first requires the completion of a thorough, fact-based investigation. To hold court using only emotion, without obtaining facts, or ignoring facts, does not benefit our community."

Hours after the couple's press conference on Monday, Phoenix police released new surveillance video from inside a Family Dollar store in Phoenix purportedly showing Ames shoplifting a pair of socks and his 4-year-old daughter walking out of the store with a box containing a doll. The video also shows an unnamed woman at the store with Ames, Harper and their two children tossing items back on a shelf before walking out with the young girl holding the doll.

Attorney Sandra Slaton, who is representing the couple along with former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, said Monday that even if allegations of shoplifting were true, "it still would not justify the horrific, barbaric action of this police department."

No charges were filed against the couple, and a $10 million notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, was sent to the city of Phoenix by attorneys for the couple.

Tuesday night's meeting is scheduled to take place at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Phoenix.

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