Four white suburban St. Louis County police officers have been accused of brutalizing a 68-year-old Black mother and her adult son, 43, after they wrongly alleged the two stole a TV.
Marvia Gray alleges in a lawsuit that she was “violently and physically seized,” thrown on the floor, beaten and handcuffed during an arrest at a Sam’s Club store in Des Peres, Missouri on March 23.
She claims she suffered serious and permanent injuries to her back, tailbone, knees, shoulder and arms. Her son Derek Gray reportedly suffered a concussion, three shattered teeth, an open head wound that required stitches and metal staples to heal.
Marvia Gray’s lawyer says his client was traumatized by how her son was treated given the history between Black men and law enforcement in America.
“Mrs. Gray thought her son was about to be another black man unjustifiably shot and killed by the police,” Attorney Andrew M. Stroth said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “You can see in the video that she is terrified with respect to what they're doing to her son.”
The violent incident was captured on cellphone video by numerous bystanders. Two of the videos taken that Stroth provided to the AP start with Gray and her son already on the ground. Viewers can see Derek attempting to sit up but is forcefully pushed back down. He’s heard yelling “Get off me,” “please let me go,” and “I’m humiliated.” His mother is also heard screaming throughout the videos.
Des Peres Police Capt. Sean Quinn declined comment on the lawsuit, according to the Daily Mail, citing pending litigation.
The city and four police officers were named in the lawsuit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court names. The officer’s last names include Maull, Summers, Righesisen, and Claybourne. It seeks unspecified damages.
Derek Gray works in security and lives in Virginia. His mother is reportedly in frail health, suffering from diseases like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and other ailments. In fact, Derek Gray took leave from his job to care for her at her home in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
According to Stroth, Derek Gray purchased a 65-inch Sony Bravia TV for his mother at Sam’s Club, along with other items. When they got to his SUV they realized everything wouldn't fit, so Derek Gray asked the store to hold the TV until he could return later and pick it up.
When Derek returned to the store to retrieve the television he paid for, someone at Sam’s Club accused him of trying to steal the merchandise. A store employee subsequently interceded and confirmed Gray had paid for the TV and was there to pick it up.
Regardless, a Des Peres police officer who was in the store followed Gray to his vehicle and accused him of theft before being told by an employee that Gray had purchased the TV.
The lawsuit says that after taking the TV home, they decided that the false accusations of theft soured their buying experience and returned to the store to return the TV. While they were 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.”
At a news conference, Marvia Gray said that she watched in terror as the officers brutalized her son. “I said, "They´re going to kill him,'” she said. “I could see my son dying before my eyes.” She later told the St. Louis Post Dispatch: “I have no faith in the police any more. They tried to take my only child.”
Marvia Gray was charged with municipal crimes of interfering with an officer and resisting arrest. Derek Gray was not charged.
Watch video of the incident below.