The Milwaukee County Courthouse. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) responded to public criticism after video showing a deputy punching a girl as she lay on the ground after a traffic stop appeared on social media earlier this week. Phone video shot by a bystander captures the deputy striking the girl as the person taking the video screams in shock. The Facebook post of the video is captioned “A friend asked me to post her 17 yo daughter getting hands put on her by Milwaukee county sheriff department yesterday.” A few seconds into the video, another deputy steps forward, obstructing the view of the struggle.
In a press release, the sheriff’s office stated that on Oct. 22, deputies were dispatched to the zoo where a fight had been reported. Although there was no fight going on when the deputies arrived, zoo security pointed to four people they believed were involved. The group, according to the press release, appeared to be waiting for a ride.
The press release states that deputies approached a vehicle and a 25-year-old woman, who was the driver, and her passengers “became argumentative, refused to identify themselves, and refused to exit the vehicle.” The sheriff’s statement continues, “the driver was removed from the vehicle by deputies and when another deputy approached the rear driver side door, one of the passengers, a 17-year-old female, was highly agitated and continued to be uncooperative.” The press release then cites body and dash camera video which has not yet been released, stating that it depicts the 17-year-old shoving a deputy away as he opened the door and swinging her arms “with closed fists.”
“The deputy directed her to the ground to gain control and try to affect an arrest,” the sheriff’s statement continues. “The subject continued kicking at the deputy and swinging her arms, striking him in the face with a closed fist while he was trying to get her into custody. The deputy used force by applying three targeted focused strikes to stop her resistance enough to apply handcuffs and take her into custody. She was arrested on a recommended charge of felony ‘battery to a law enforcement officer’ and two other misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting and obstructing an officer. The driver was taken in on a recommended ‘resisting and obstructing’ charge.”
Tamika Dowell, mother of the 17-year-old girl, told Wisconsin Examiner that her daughter called her as the incident played out. Earlier that day, Dowell’s oldest daughter, 25-year-old Nayah Monique Dowell-Willis, had taken her 17-year old sister and her friends to the Milwaukee County Zoo, and was returning with her own two children to pick them up. “How I initially got the call is because my daughter, I want to say maybe five seconds before they busted out her car window…She called me and said, ‘Mom they’re going to take me to jail.’ And I said, ‘Who?’ And she said, ‘I’m about to go to jail,’” Dowel recounted.
Dowell heard the car window shatter while she was still on the phone, she said. “And they begin to try to pull her out of the car through opening the door, pulling her out, and I’m hearing the tug-o-war.” Dowell said she could hear the phone drop before her daughter activated her Apple Watch. “They wasn’t aware of it,” said Dowell. “She tapped that, and then I was able to hear clearer of what was going on.”
Dowell wonders why deputies were so aggressive, and why no law enforcement investigators have reached out to her, while the MCSO released its version of events to the public. She also wonders why her 17-year-old daughter is being kept in an adult facility despite not having a record, why no female deputies dealt with her daughters, and whether there’s actually evidence linking her daughters to a fight.
Dowell feels that more force was used on her daughters than the sheriff’s office has admitted. “The video shows three hits, my daughter was previously hit before the tape started, several other times,” said Dowell. “That is my child. I’ve never heard her squeal, scream, or anything in 17 years like that. So she was in pain, and she was hit physically prior to the video starting.”
“They had no compassion for my 1 and 3-year-old grandsons sitting in the backseat,” Dowell added.
Dowell was able to see her daughter through a video call on Tuesday, she told Wisconsin Examiner, and noted that she still had a “busted lip.” The family has not seen dash or body camera video of the arrest, she says. Since the Tuesday call, Dowell says she has not been able to get through to talk with her daughter again. On Wednesday, Dowell-Willis was scheduled to appear in Milwaukee County intake court.
An MCSO spokesperson said the sheriff’s office is aware of the video of the deputy striking the 17-year-old, but said it doesn’t capture the entire incident.
The MCSO said that it will not comment further while the sheriff and district attorney review the case. A records request by the Wisconsin Examiner for the sheriff’s office videos of the incident was denied Wednesday, due to the ongoing investigation.
If she could, Dowell told Wisconsin Examiner, Dowell would ask Sheriff Denita Ball and the deputies who arrested her daughters, “how could she [Ball] explain that to a mother? Being that she might have kids herself, he [the arresting deputy] has kids, probably a wife, how could you explain that?”
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