WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A family is demanding an apology from the West Memphis Police Department, claiming officers harassed their sister and didn’t do enough to de-escalate a tense encounter.
Police say they were doing their job and this was a preventable situation.
“The West Memphis Police Department owes my family an apology, they owe my sister an apology, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Richard Brookshire said.
Brookshire said he dropped everything and flew to Arkansas this weekend to be with family after his 4-year-old niece was killed in a crash on Interstate 40 on Saturday.
While walking in the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn, she was approached by two West Memphis police officers.
“My sister needed some fresh air. She was having a really hard time and wanted to speak to some close friends who just couldn’t be by her side right now,” Brookshire said.
Assistant Chief Robert Langston with the West Memphis Police Department said the officers were doing what they’d been asked to do, after motel management told police about break-ins in the area.
“They were on those hotel lots because hotel management is coming to use and saying we’re having an issue here. We’re having break-ins in our area. We’re having people travel through and want to make sure our property is safe,” Langston said.
But the family doesn’t believe that alone was enough to approach a grieving mother, and they question what happened next.
According to police, officers asked the woman to show her room key. The woman called a family member, saying police were trying to arrest her, but police say they were just confirming she was a motel guest.
A video of the incident shows officers tell the woman, “You’re about to go to jail for disorderly.” She answers, “Yeah and miss my daughter’s funeral because you want to lock me up while I’m walking in a parking lot.”
Police say the woman was screaming in the parking lot.
They decide to handcuff her to put her in the car and try to calm her down. That’s when the struggle started.
“We got the call from my sister and we ran down as quickly as we could,” Brookshire said, “and I come outside and I see a cop with my sister handcuffed on the ground with his knee on her back, and I scream, ‘Her daughter just died.’”
She ended up being released with no charges. Police are calling it an unfortunate situation that could’ve been prevented.
“I understand she was under a great deal of stress and I have never been in the situation that she’s in. I can’t speak for her,” Langston said. “I can understand the stress that she was dealing with, and that the family was dealing with, but our officers don’t know that. They don’t know what the family is going through. We’re there to really to protect their property.”
Police say the officers didn’t violate any policy and will not face any disciplinary action.