A Missouri woman filed a lawsuit against several police officers she says beat her and her son after they were falsely accused of stealing a television.
The incident occurred on March 23 at a Sam’s Club store in Des Peres, Missouri, a small city about 15 miles away from St. Louis, according to The Associated Press. Marvia Gray, 68, and her 43-year-old son Derek bought a television at the store, but they were unable to fit it in their vehicle with the rest of their purchases. They asked store employees to hold the television at the front of the store and promised to come back for it.
Derek Gray showed up later in the day to retrieve the television and an employee accused him of trying to steal it. Another staff member intervened and explained the prior arrangement. The purchase was verified with a receipt and Derek Gray took the television to his car. Des Peres Officer Michael Clayborne followed him even though an employee told the cop the television was bought earlier that day.
“Despite knowing this information, Officer Clayborne made an emergency phone call to the Des Peres Police Department,” the lawsuit read. “During this emergency call, Officer Clayborne falsely reported that he had ‘witnessed Gray steal a TV and place it in the parked vehicle.’”
Derek Gray dropped the television at his mother’s house and told her about his experience. The pair discussed the issue and decided to return the TV for a refund. When they entered the store, they ran into Clayborne and three other officers, Brandley Summers, Ryan Righesisen, and Bill Maull. All of them are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
Court documents claim the group “without cause or adequate provocation and in the presence of countless witnesses, violently and physically seized Marvia Gray and Derek Gray, throwing them to the floor, beating them, handcuffing them, then arresting them. These actions are captured on closed-circuit video taken by the surveillance cameras in the store and cell phones of onlookers.”
A video taken by onlookers shows the Grays on the ground in cuffs. Both are visibly upset and beg officers to release them. Derek Gray’s head was covered in blood. The lawsuit claims both sustained multiple injuries. Derek Gray had a concussion and head wounds that required several staples and more than dozen stitches. Additionally, three of his teeth were shattered Marvia Gray suffered several injuries to her back, tailbone, arms, shoulder and knees.
During a video press conference on Monday, the mother admitted she thought “they going to kill him.”
“I gave up,” Marvia recalled. “This is the way Derek is going to go. They were beating him so bad.”
“We are demanding accountability,” Andrew Stroth, the Grays’ lawyer, said. “Mrs. Gray thought her son was about to be yet another black man, unjustifiably shot and killed by the police. Whether it’s Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, we demand justice and accountability to prevent these tragic events from happening in our communities.”
Des Peres Police Chief Eric J. Hall told a different story in a statement published on Facebook.
He accused the Grays being needlessly combative when approached by officers.
“As one of our officers attempted to detain a male subject for the reported larceny, the subject did not comply and began to struggle with officers,” Hall wrote. “This struggle started as soon as the subject was told he was being detained and one handcuff was applied.”
Hall claimed Derek Gray tried to attack one of the officers with a fire extinguisher. A video taken by a witness shows a fire extinguisher lying a few feet away from the younger Gray.
“The subject 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.”
The press release said Marvia Gray “began to grab and pull at the officers during the initial contact.”
She was charged with resisting arrest and interference. No charges have been filed against Derek Gray as of press time.