‘You Aren’t Going to Like What I Say’: Phoenix Police Chief Sparks Outrage at Community Meeting About Couple’s Violent Encounter With Cops
Tempers flared on Tuesday at a community meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, where a*ngry residents c*onfronted city leaders over p*olice o*fficers’ v*iolent response to a shoplifting i*ncident involving a couple and their two young children.
An estimated 2,650 people packed the pews and halls of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix for the evening meeting to discuss the harrowing ordeal, local station CBS 5 reported. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and P*olice Chief Jeri Williams also attended the meeting, where they were d*rowned out by deafening boos and calls for increased transparency.
The pair was also joined by City Council members Carlos Garcia and Michael Nowakowski, City Manager Ed Zuercher, Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney, and Executive Assistant P*olice Chief Michael Kurtenbach.
“I’m deeply sorry for the events that brought us here today,” the mayor told residents at the start of the hours-long meeting. “I asked for this community meeting [and] Chief Williams’ presence so we would have a chance to listen to your thoughts.”
Both Gallego and Williams have apologized for the i*ncident in which a pair of Phoenix o*fficers were filmed pointing their g*uns and ye*lling obscenities at a Black couple whose 4-year-old daughter had taken a doll from a Family Dollar store last month without anyone paying for it.
The couple, Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, said they were unaware their daughter had taken the doll.
Things got h*eated at Tuesday’s meeting as several residents, many whose loved ones have di*ed at the hands of Phoenix p*olice, voiced their frustrations over the department’s lack of transparency in the k*illings. Roland Harris, whose son Jacob Harris was g*unned down by an o*fficer in January, was among those who took their anger straight to Williams and Gallego.
“The chief wants to talk about transparency? We had to sue you to get his p*olice report,” Harris said, according to The Phoenix New Times. “I got his p*olice report today, and it’s inconsistent with the a*utopsy I got.”
“David Norman, your o*fficer — my son was the third v*ictim of that po*lice o*fficer, do you understand that, Chief? He k*illed three people before my son!” Harris carried on, drawing raucous applause from the crowd. “I do not understand how you allow him to still be on p*atrol.”
Twelve-year-old resident Savannah Taylor also took the mic and decried the “sickening” behavior of the o*fficers.
“What [those po*lice o*fficers] did was wrong and can never be justified by anyone,” Taylor said through tears. “I’m shaking right now. Something has to be done so this never happens again.”
The Phoenix Po*lice Department came under fi*re last week after bystander video showed o*fficers a*ssaulting a handc*uffed Ames, 22, while another c*op pulled his g*n on Ames’ pregnant fiancée and their two daughters. The May 27 i*ncident unfolded at a nearby apartment complex as of*ficers responded to reports of a the*ft.
Video of the encounter, recorded by a concerned neighbor, has been viewed thousands of times, garnering national outrage.
Last Thursday, the family f*iled a notice of claim, a p*recursor to a laws*uit, against the city for $10 million. The claim a*ccuses o*fficers of engaging in po*lice br*utality, wrongful impr*isonment and civil rights v*iolations in the i*ncident.
“Nobody should ever try to justify what happened in the video. Nobody!” said Ames as he stood with Harper and their daughter, the family greeted with a standing ovation. “That’s insulting and that h*urts. That hu*rts for our family. That hu*rts all of us.
“Mass m*urderers get walked out without a *s*cratch,” Ames continued, garnering applause.
Cradling her 1-year-old child in her arms, Harper demanded justice for her family and called on the department to f*ire the of*ficers involved.
Before the meeting concluded, po*lice Chief Williams took a moment to address the crowd of a*ngry residents. She assured them that she was listening and processing their concerns, but her kumbayah moment quickly went left.
“You guys aren’t going to like what I’m going to say,” Williams began before adding: “Real change doesn’t start with our p*olice department. Real change starts with our community.”
Her suggestion that it’s the community, not p*olice, that needed to change sparked a torrent of boos from the audience and even prompted some residents to storm out of the building, according to the Arizona Republic. Williams attempted to clarify her statements by saying the po*lice department is a part of the community, but it was too late.
“You don’t have to believe me,” Williams continued. “But the proof will be in the pudding.”
City leaders said they plan to hold another meeting in 30 days.
Watch more in the video HERE.