New rally called while Phoenix police chief promises change

PHOENIX — The Phoenix police chief promised change in her department after being booed by people gathered to discuss the video of officers who pointed guns and shouted obscenities at a black family they suspected of shoplifting.

The meeting Tuesday night at a downtown church was called by the city to address the video, which was taken by a bystander who watched as police confronted Dravon Ames and his pregnant fiancee, Iesha Harper, who was holding their 1-year-old daughter. The couple say their 4-year-old daughter took a doll from a store without their knowledge.

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"Real change starts with the community," Police Chief Jeri Williams said to a sometimes-hostile crowd comprised mainly of black and Hispanic residents.

"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 city leaders.

Williams tried to assure the people that the meeting would not be the last.

"We are here to listen. We are here to make change," she said.

The race of the officers has not been made public. The couple wants them to be fired.

Local advocacy groups organized a rally for later Wednesday outside City Hall, following by a march to a regular City Council meeting to call for police reforms.

Ames addressed the crowd briefly, drawing applause when he said he and his family were lucky to be alive.

"No one should ever try to justify what happened that day," he said.

"We matter," Harper said.

Others who spoke included the father of Jacob Harris, a 19-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a Phoenix officer in January following an armed robbery.

Earlier Tuesday, Phoenix police released surveillance video aimed at backing up their assertion that adults and not just a child were shoplifting before the incident.

The heavily edited store video showed 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 showed 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 stated that Ames told police he threw a pair of stolen underwear out of his car. Police also say a woman travelling in a different vehicle was arrested separately for stealing aluminum foil.

The store decided not to prosecute, and no charges have been filed.

The couple filed a $10 million claim against the city alleging civil rights violations.

Ames has a pending case on charges of aggravated assault of a police officer in an unrelated case that followed a traffic accident last year in suburban Tempe. 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 the documents.

Phoenix police have not responded to repeated questions about whether the officers on the video were aware of, or influenced by, Ames' earlier case. Civil liberties attorney Sandra Slaton has called the prior case irrelevant.

The police chief has said an investigation into the officers' actions is underway.

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