WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — West Memphis police have released multiple videos of an altercation that happened in front of a hotel involving two of their own and a grieving mother.
After a number of break-ins near in the area, police stepped up their patrols.
Sunday night, officers saw a woman, Shawnda Brookshire, walking in the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn and stopped to make sure she was a guest at the hotel.
When they approached the Shawnda, she told them to turn their cameras on. The officers said they told her they were already on and recording.
Shawnda yelled at the officers while they were trying to find out her name.
WARNING GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: Police released video of the confrontation between a grieving mother and police.
Officers tried to calm Shawnda down but the situation escalated.
When they asked for her identification, she yelled and cursed that it was in her room. She called her mom to bring out her ID.
The officers tried to explain that she wasn't under arrest, they were trying to confirm that she was staying at the hotel.
Shawnda refused to stop screaming at the officers, so they attempted to handcuff her and place her in the patrol car.
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The officers ended up having to place Shawnda on the ground in order to handcuff her.
At that time her family ran out of the hotel and saw her on the ground.
They screamed at the officers and one officer pulled out his taser and told them to stop.
The group stopped and the officer put his taser away.
Shawnda was placed in the patrol car and the officers spoke with the family members.
According to police, a supervisor came to the scene and found out that Shawnda had lost her 4-year-old child, Nia, in a car accident and the group of people were family members who were in town to help make final arrangements.
After speaking with
and her family, the patrol lieutenant released the woman at the scene without any charges.
In a statement on Facebook, the West Memphis Police Department shared their condolences for the family's loss and stressed that the officers were just trying to do their jobs.
The statement said:
The woman's family has taken to social media to address this incident.
FOX13 spoke to Natacha Brookshire, the grandmother of 4-year-old Nia Brookshire, who said when her daughter called her on Saturday she thought someone was attacking her daughter.
"Saturday I got a phone call and all I heard was my daughter screaming. I got so scared. I thought, ‘someone is attacking my daughter and I don't know where she's at.' That's when the accident had happened," said Natacha.
FOX13 also spoke with West Memphis Police Assistant Chief Robert Langston who said the officers were there to do a job.
"They're there to protect the people traveling through and make sure their stuff's not getting stolen, at the request of the hotel, and they come across this woman and it's immediately confrontational," said Langston.
Natacha was visibly shaken by the incident and even stepped away for a moment during our interview to collect herself.
"It wasn't that they said ‘ma'am, we didn't know who she was.' I said, ‘why are you doing this?' ‘You know what they said to me? ‘ ma'am, there's been reports of carjackings here, and she was walking outside with her hoodie on. So I went towards them and I said ‘ a hoodie?' Cause they were all white cops. Are we talking Trayvon Martin here," Natacha asked.
Shawnda was eventually released, police said once they realized her emotional state.
"Those officers dealing with it right at that time, they had no idea what was going on, they just knew they pulled up on someone, and she was immediately belligerent, so why? Why is she acting like this," explained Langston.
The entire encounter was less than 17 minutes, but for the Brookshires, their whole life changed.
"I knew what I was seeing. I understood exactly what was going on. I had no doubt in my mind what was going on. I understood I was living racism in action," said Natacha.
The family told FOX13 they are considering all options of legal recourse and believe the police department should undergo bereavement and distress deescalation training.
You can view the entire video from WMPD here.
Our FOX 13 law enforcement analyst, Mike Collins, looked at the video and said the officers acted appropriately but wonders if they had crisis intervention training.
Collins said if they had that type of training, the situation would have turned out differently.
"They had a complaint of numerous vehicles being broken into in that area and everyone was a possible suspect... that is what they are trained to do, to deescalate the problem all the way down," said Collins.
FOX 13 has learned one of the officers involved has crisis intervention training, the other officer only has behavioral training but not CIT
A captain with the department told FOX13 there will be a review of the audio tape to see if the CIT training was used and if it was used properly.
The Mayor of West Memphis said he wants to learn more about this case to make sure his police department is sensitive to the people we engage.
The police department said it wants all of its officers CIT trained as the state of Arkansas has encouraged.
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