By JIM SALTER Associated Press
O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis County’s prosecutor launched an investigation Wednesday into the arrest of a black woman and her adult son who say video shows white police officers brutalizing them after they were falsely accused of stealing a television at a Sam’s Club store in March.
The announcement from Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell came two days after Marvia Gray filed suit, seeking unspecified damages from the city of Des Peres, Missouri, and four officers. The lawsuit said Marvia Gray, 68, was permanently injured and that her 43-year-old son, Derek, had a concussion and three shattered teeth.
Surveillance video of the arrest has no audio. In video recorded by two people inside the store that begins after both Marvia Gray and her son are on the ground, both plead with the officers to let them go. At one point, Derek Gray tries to sit up but two officers forcefully push him back down.
Bell said in a statement that his office is investigating “all aspects of the matter,” but declined further comment.
Des Peres City Attorney Chris Graville declined comment. The city’s public safety director “unequivocally denies” that officers used excessive force, City Administrator Douglas Harms said in a statement.
Derek Gray, who lives in Virginia, was first accused of stealing the large TV after he purchased it for his mother on March 23. The store had agreed to hold it because it wouldn’t fit in his SUV with his other purchases, the lawsuit said. But when Gray returned later that day, he was initially told he was suspected of stealing the TV, even though he had a receipt, attorney Andrew Stroth said.
Although an employee confirmed that the TV was purchased, a police officer in the store followed Gray when he took it to his vehicle, the lawsuit said.
Gray and his mom decided to return to the TV after he told her what had happened. 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.”
Marvia Gray was charged with municipal crimes of interfering with an officer and resisting arrest. Derek Gray was not charged. Bell’s statement said Des Peres police recently sought charges in the case, but does not say what charges were sought, or against whom. A spokesman for Bell declined to elaborate.
Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay of St. Louis, who is black, said in a statement Wednesday that excessive force and racial profiling “must be rooted out and removed from local law enforcement before another incident like this leads to a tragedy.”