Police in Arkansas are under fire after a grieving mother’s family says she was “accosted” outside a West Memphis, Arkansas, hotel.
The woman, whom Fox 13 identified as Shawnda Brookshire, headed outside from the La Quinta Inn Sunday where her family stayed after flying into town to help her make funeral arrangements. Her 4-year-old daughter, Nia, had been killed in a car accident that Saturday.
“Last night, @westmemphispd cops accosted and attempted to arrest my grieving sister for STANDING OUTSIDE OF OUR HOTEL AND MOURNING THE LOSS OF HER DEAD DUAGHTER. Threw her to the ground, put her in handcuffs and put their knee on her back, before throwing her in a police car,” tweeted the woman’s brother, Richard Brookshire, on Monday, Nov. 18. “My sister needed fresh air after such an emotional day and decided to take some calls outside. She spoke on the phone for about an hour when random officers rolled up flashing lights in her face in the middle of her call with my dead niece’s father.”
“She showed the police her hotel key and they got out of the car and asked for identification. She told the police her ID was inside, in her hotel room. She asked the police what she was doing wrong, they exited the vehicle surrounded her,” he continued. “She immediately called my mother and I on the phone and yelled that she needed our help, that white police were harassing her. My mother, myself and my aunt, who happens to be legally blind, ran as fast as we could downstairs.”
Richard Brookshire said he raced outisde to find his sister “facedown on the ground with a cops kneeling in her back.” When he shouted at the officer asking what the officers were doing, another turned around and showed his stun gun and allegedly “pointed it at me and yelled that he was going to arrest me, too.”
He said the family started shouting that his niece had just died a day before and that his sister was staying at a hotel. Richard Brookshire said the back-and-forth continued, with his sister being handcuffed placed in the back of a cop car for 30 minutes before she was released.
Video of Shawnda Brookshire in the car was put out by the WMPD. They told Fox 13 there had been break-ins reported in the area, leading them to increase patrolling. Officers said the mother shouted and cursed at them when they asked for her ID, which she said it was in her hotel room. Authorities said they tried to explain Shawnda Brookshire was not under arrest but when she didn’t calm down, they wound up placing her on the ground to handcuff her before they put her in the patrol car.
“I said, ‘why are you doing this?’ ‘You know what they said to me?” the woman’s mother, Natacha Brookshire said to Fox 13. “‘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?”
Ultimately, Shawnda Brookshire was released with no charges.
In a statement since removed from its Facebook page, the department offered condolences and described the event as “unfortunate.”
“The West Memphis Police Department would like to express our condolences for this family’s loss,” it read. “It is an extremely tragic situation and we understand the stress that this family is dealing with. Our officers were simply trying to patrol this parking lot, at the request of management, in an attempt to protect the property of people as they traveled through our area. This is an unfortunate event that could have easily been prevented.”
Meanwhile, the family told the news station they are considering all legal options and Richard Brookshire told WREG the department ought to apologize to his family.
“The West Memphis Police Department owes my family an apology, they owe my sister an apology, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
Richard Brookshire also tweeted that the department’s statement was “a reimagining of circumstance based on a singular and conveniently skewed interpretation of events. My sister lost her child. We’d just come back from seeing her body. She told @westmemphispd that. They threw her on the ground for screaming.”