A 68-year-old black woman is suing the city of Des Peres, Mo., and four white police officers who she accuses of brutalizing her and her 43-year-old son at a Sam’s Club store on March 23 after the officers wrongly suspected them of stealing a TV that they had paid for.
The Associated Press reports that Marvia Gray filed her lawsuit Monday, accusing officers of using excessive force in arresting her and her son, Derek Gray, causing them both to suffer serious injuries. Marvia—who has underlying health issues including osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma, according to AP—said some of the injuries the police caused are permanent and she said her son suffered multiple injuries, including a concussion and broken teeth.
“Mrs. Gray thought her son was about to be another black man unjustifiably shot and killed by the police,” Andrew M. Stroth, an attorney with the Action Injury Law Group, told AP in a phone interview. “You can see in the video that she is terrified with respect to what they’re doing to her son.”
Stroth provided media outlets with video footage of the incident captured by witnesses, which shows Marvia and Derek both on the ground as officers struggle to handcuff Derek. Derek can be heard shouting “Get off me,” “Please let me go,” and, “I’m humiliated,” as Marvia screams hysterically and pleads with the officers not to hurt her son.
Here’s what led up to the confrontation as reported by AP News:
At the Sam’s Club, Derek Gray purchased a 65-inch Sony Bravia flat-screen TV for his mother, along with other items, Stroth said. When they got to his SUV they realized everything wouldn’t fit, so Derek Gray asked the store to hold the TV until he could return later and pick it up.
The trouble began when he went back to the store. At first, the lawsuit said, someone at the store expressed suspicion that Gray was trying to steal the TV. A store employee interceded and confirmed that Gray had paid for the TV and was there to pick it up.
Still, a Des Peres officer who was in the store followed Gray to the SUV and accused him of theft before being told by an employee that Gray had bought the TV, the lawsuit said.
Gray returned to his mother’s home and told her about the false accusations. They decided, based on how he was treated, to return the TV and get their money back.
The lawsuit said that while the Grays were at the store seeking a refund, four officers “violently and physically seized Marvia Gray and Derek Gray, throwing them to the floor, beating them, handcuffing them, then arresting them.”
Of course, the police are telling a different story. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Des Peres Police Department released a statement saying that the officers did nothing wrong and that the Grays were the aggressors.
“Upon our arrival, officers were notified that the items were in fact stolen,” the statement said. “A family member who began to grab and pull at the officers during the initial contact was also taken into custody and charged with interfering and resisting arrest.”
The statement continues saying that Derek “attempted to remove a fire extinguisher from the wall (during the struggle) in a manner to attempt to use it against the officer but it was dislodged from him as he was wrestled to the ground.”
Marvia was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with an officer. To date, Derek still has yet to be charged with anything—which is strange considering what police accused him of.
It’s also unclear why Marvia and Derek were approached by police in the first place and why the police were told that “the items were in fact stolen” even though it was confirmed that nothing was stolen.
You can view footage of the incident below.