A 68-year-old black woman and her adult son have sued four white police officers who used excessive force on them after wrongly accusing them of stealing a TV in a Missouri Sam’s Club.
Details contained in the lawsuit revealed that even after being told by store attendant that the Black mother and her son had paid for the TV in their possession, the White police officer called his other colleagues to effect the forecful arrest of the Black woman and her son.
Describing the anguish and mental pains she suffered after the incident, Marvia Gray said she thought her son would be killed.
NY DailyNews reported that Marvia Gray suffered “mental anguish” as well as injuries to her tailbone, back, shoulder, knees and arms when she was thrown to the ground and handcuffed March 23 inside the Des Peres store, the lawsuit filed Monday in St. Louis County alleges.
Her 43-year-old son, Derek, suffered a concussion, three shattered teeth and other injuries, the paperwork obtained by the Daily News states.
Marvia was especially traumatized during the incident because she feared for her son’s life following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, her lawyer Andrew M. Stroth told the Associated Press.
“Mrs. Gray thought her son was about to be another black man unjustifiably shot and killed by the police,” Stroth said in a phone interview. “You can see in the video that she is terrified with respect to what they’re doing to her son.”
Cellphone video shot in the store and obtained by the AP begins with Gray and her son already on the ground. Derek tries to sit up at one point, but two officers forcefully push him back down, according to the video.
“Get off me,” he is heard yelling. “I’m humiliated.”
Marvia screams throughout the videos, yelling at officers, “Please leave me alone!”
Derek and an officer were treated for injuries following the incident, Des Peres City Administrator Douglas Harms told the AP.
Harms said the city’s public safety director reviewed the evidence and “unequivocally denies that the officers used excessive force to ‘beat’ the plaintiffs.”
Marvia Gray is in frail health with osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and other ailments, Stroth said.
Derek, who lives in Virginia and works in security, reportedly took a leave from his job to care for his mom at her home in Creve Coeur, Missouri, another St. Louis suburb.
At the Sam’s Club, Derek purchased a 65-inch Sony Bravia flat-screen TV for his mother, along with other items, Stroth said.
When they tried to load the massive TV in their 2018 Lexus SUV and realized it wouldn’t fit, they asked the store to hold it until Derek could retrieve it later.
A Des Peres Police officer in the store mistakenly thought he was stealing the TV when he returned later. The officer followed Derek to his SUV and voiced his suspicion before a store employee intervened and explained the TV was paid for, the lawsuit said.
Despite receiving this information, the officer still called the Des Peres Police Department and “falsely reported that he had ‘witnessed Gray steal a TV and place it in the parked vehicle,’” the lawsuit states.
When Derek reported the incident to his mom, they decided to return the TV due to the experience with the false allegations, the lawsuit states.
While the Grays were at the store seeking a refund, the four officers, including the one who made the emergency call, “violently and physically seized Marvia Gray and Derek Gray, throwing them to the floor, beating them, handcuffing them, then arresting them,” the paperwork states.
Police Capt. Sean Quinn declined to comment Monday, citing the pending litigation.
Speaking to reporters, Marvia Gray said she was terrified as she watched the officers arrest her son.
“I said, ‘They’re going to kill him,’” Gray recalled. “I could see my son dying before my eyes.”
Marvia Gray was charged with interfering with an officer and resisting arrest.
Prosecutors are still reviewing whether to file charges against Derek Gray, according to Harms.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and also names the city as a defendant.
Photo credit: AP