Police released surveillance video Tuesday aimed at backing up their assertion that adults and not just a child were shoplifting before a videotaped encounter during which Phoenix officers pointed guns and yelled profanities at a family.
The release came just hours before a community meeting with the city’s mayor and police chief amid an outcry that has attracted national attention. The couple involved and civil rights advocates also were expected to attend.
A store video released by police is difficult to follow because it has been edited and the subjects’ faces are blurred. It shows a man taking something from a display rack and examining it, but it’s unclear what happened to the package when he walked off camera.
Another snippet of video later shows a little girl with a doll in a box walking out of the store accompanied by adults.
A police statement last week about the incident in late May states Dravon Ames told police he threw a pair of stolen underwear out of his car. Police also say a woman traveling in a different vehicle was arrested separately for stealing aluminum foil.
A bystander’s video that came to light last week shows officers aiming guns and yelling profane commands at Ames and his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, as she held their 1-year-old daughter. They say their 4-year-old daughter had taken a doll from a store without their knowledge.
The store decided not to prosecute and no charges have been filed.
The couple, who is black, filed a $10 million claim against the city alleging civil rights violations as a precursor to a lawsuit. The race of the officers is not known.
Mayor Kate Gallego and Police Chief Jeri Williams were expected at the Tuesday night meeting at a downtown church. Both have apologized publicly for the way the encounter was handled.
Ames has a pending case on charges of aggravated assault of a police officer in an unrelated case that followed a traffic accident in suburban Tempe, Arizona, last year. Court documents say Ames unsuccessfully tried to kick officers several times when they arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana.
One Tempe officer used a stun gun on Ames because he thought he was trying to grab the other officer’s gun, according to documents.
Phoenix police have not responded to repeated questions about whether the officers in the videotaped encounter following the alleged shoplifting were aware of, or influenced by, Ames’ earlier case. Civil liberties attorney Sandra Slaton said Monday the prior case was irrelevant.
The police chief has said an investigation into the officers’ actions is under way. The Phoenix police union is urging calm, saying it will not express an opinion until the investigation is completed.
The bystander’s video comes amid an investigation by police departments in Phoenix and other cities into a database that appears to catalog thousands of bigoted or violent social media posts by active-duty and former officers.
Williams, who is black, has moved some officers to “non-enforcement” assignments while the department looks into Facebook posts she called “embarrassing and disturbing.”
The database published by Plain View Project earlier this month included nearly 180 posts tied to current Phoenix police officers that disparage Muslims, black people, transgender people and other groups.