The Phoenix police officer who threatened to shoot a black family during a shoplifting investigation will be fired, the department's chief announced Tuesday.
The chaotic confrontation on May 29 was captured in cellphone videos by witnesses and also prompted the family to file a lawsuit. In one video, an officer can be seen with his gun drawn. Another officer, who is not immediately visible, screams, "You're going to get fucking shot!"
On Tuesday, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said the incident had been considered by the department's disciplinary review board, which includes police officers and members of the community. One officer received a written reprimand for using inappropriate language, but the board found he had attempted to de-escalate the situation. Officer Christopher Meyer, who threatened to shoot and also kicked a handcuffed man, will be fired, Williams said.
"I have expectations of my employees to be respectful, to be courteous, to be decisive, and to treat everyone with dignity," she said at a news conference.
The family — 22-year-old Dravon Ames, his pregnant fiancé, Iesha Harper, and their two young children, ages 1 and 4 — had been shopping at Family Dollar at the time of a reported shoplifting. The family said their daughter walked out of the store with a doll without them noticing, after Phoenix police officers had been called to the store following a report of a woman attempting to steal aluminum foil.
The woman, who is Harper's aunt, was arrested in the store's parking lot on outstanding warrants. Officers then followed the family's car to an apartment complex, where they demanded Ames and Harper get out of the car.
In the family's lawsuit, Ames said Meyer pulled him from the car and yelled, "I'm going to put a cap in your ass." Video shows Ames being handcuffed on the pavement and pushed against a squad car as Meyer searches him and kicks him.
Harper, meanwhile, struggles to get out of the car with the children.
“I could have shot you in front of your fucking kids," an officer says after she is handcuffed.
That officer put his gun away when he saw he was dealing with a mother with young children, and then tried to calm down Meyer, police said.
According to police reports from the incident, a doll was ultimately found in the car, and officers believed it had been unintentionally taken from the store by the 4-year-old. The store didn't seek prosecution, and no one was ever charged with shoplifting.
The department's disciplinary review board had originally recommended that Meyer be suspended without pay for six weeks. But Williams said she decided to fire him because of the erosion of trust his behavior had caused.
"In this case, a 240-hour suspension is just not sufficient to reverse the adverse effects of his actions on our department and our community," she said.
Williams also praised the roughly 4,000 other people employed by the police department and their commitment to professionalism.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, we get it right," she said. "But when we don’t, it does come at a cost."