Four white St. Louis-area police officers reportedly "beat" a black man and his ill, elderly mother after falsely accusing the two of stealing a television from a local Sam's Club.
According to a Monday Daily Mail report, the woman, 68-year-old Marvia Gray, and her son, Derek Gray, 43, filed a lawsuit on Monday, seeking unspecified damages.
A spokesperson for the police department say that there's much more to the viral story than what's being reported.
What are the details?
The lawsuit accuses at least four police officers of beating Gray and her son after accusing them of stealing a television.
The suit states that Marvia Gray — who suffers from osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more — received "serious and permanent injuries," including to the tailbone, back, shoulder, knees, and arms, as a result of the alleged incident, which reportedly took place on March 23 in Des Peres, Missouri.
The suit also claims that Derek Gray was diagnosed with a concussion after the alleged attack. He also reportedly suffered three shattered teeth.
According to the Daily Mail report, the duo visited the Sam's Club to purchase a television. Derek purchased a 65-inch flat-screen TV with his mother along with other personal items. The two took their purchases out to the vehicle, where they determined that the television would not fit into the waiting SUV. Derek then reportedly went back into the store and asked employees to hold the television so he could return at a later time with a bigger vehicle.
When Derek returned to the store, an unnamed party reportedly said they thought he was attempting to steal the television. A police officer who was in the store reportedly then followed Derek to the vehicle and accused him of theft. A store employee reportedly confirmed, however, that Derek was visiting the store in order to pick up his previous purchase.
Derek was able to take the television and leave, but his mother was not happy about the false accusations. Derek and his mother then returned to the store, where they planned to return the television for a refund.
The suit states that when the two arrived at the store, no fewer than four officers accosted Marvia and Derek, "throwing them to the floor, beating them, handcuffing them, then arresting them."
Social media video of the incident shows police arresting Derek as two officers force him down. He repeatedly yells, "Get off me," "I'm humiliated," and "Please let me go."
For her part, Marvia Gray can be heard screaming throughout the video and begging officers to leave them alone.
Raw video: Woman, her adult son arrested while trying to return TV www.youtube.com
What are people saying about this?
The duo's lawyer says that Marvia was worried that one of the officers might shoot her son.
"Mrs. Gray thought her son was about to be another black man unjustifiably shot and killed by the police," the family's lawyer Andrew M. Stroth of Chicago's Action Injury Law Group, said in a statement about the alleged incident. "You can see in the video that she is terrified with respect to what they're doing to her son."
The suit also alleges:
While the Grays were at the Store attempting to get a refund, Officer (Michael) Clayborne, Officer (Bradley) Summers, Officer (Ryan) Ringeisen, and Officer (Bill) Maull, 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.
Law enforcement officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to the outlet.
A portion Facebook statement from the Des Peres Department of Public Safety read:
Upon our arrival, officers were notified … that the items were in fact stolen. A family member who began to grab and pull at the officers during the initial contact was also taken into custody and charged with interfering and resisting arrest.
Further, the statement alleges that Derek reportedly "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 police statement also said that four officers and Derek were taken to a hospital for treatment.
Authorities charged Marvia with interfering with an officer as well as resisting arrest. Authorities did not charge Derek with any crimes.
In a statement, Des Peres City Administrator Douglas Harms said, "Director of Public Safety Eric Hall has reviewed all reports and a video of the incident and unequivocally denies that officers used excessive force to 'beat' the plaintiffs. … Charges remain under review by Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell who has been provided a copy of the store video and all incidents reports by Des Peres police. The city will have no further comment at this time."
A spokesman for Bell, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, said Bell's office intended to conduct a "full and complete independent investigation of the matter."
"We are demanding accountability," the family's attorney said during a news conference about the incident. "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."
Marvia Gray told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she feared only for her son's life.
"They going to kill him," she said. "I gave up. This is the way Derek is going to go. They were beating him so bad."
"I have no faith in the police anymore," she added. "They tried to take my only child."