West Memphis, AR — West Memphis police (WMPD) are under fire this week for detaining by force and nearly arresting a grieving mother. Her crime? She was walking around the parking lot of her hotel while calling concerned family members distraught over the loss of her four-year-old daughter who had just passed away in a car accident.
WMPD officers who arrived on scene attempted to obtain Shawnda Brookshire‘s identity. She stated she showed the officers her room key but that wasn’t enough for the men who kept pressing her for more identifying information. Brookshire didn’t want the police contact which was initiated without probable cause or her permission. She was simply walking in the parking lot, an action which is not a crime and does not require someone, in most cases, to identify themselves.
Brookshire stated she was in town and she was grieving the loss of her four-year-old daughter, Nia. Brookshire’s daughter was killed miles from home, necessitating the family leave Ohio to retrieve the body in Arkansas. West Memphis is in Arkansas on the Western side of the Mississippi River just outside of the metropolis of Memphis, TN.
Instead of complying with any of the officers’ commands, the heartbroken mother called her mother who was inside the hotel. The officers then escalated the use of force against Brookshire as she, in a panic, called for her mother over the phone. Cops took her to the ground, put handcuffs on her, and threw her in the back of the squad car at the same time her family came running out of the La Quinta Inn.
Apparently more composed, but still angry and yelling, the family attempted to ascertain why Brookshire got arrested. The cops told the family it was for disorderly conduct and they, too, would be arrested if they did not stop yelling. As cops pointed tasers at the family, they stopped yelling.
After learning Brookshire was not a suspected thief, the officers on scene let her go. Brookshire’s brother tweeted about the incident which has now gone viral.
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.
— Richard. (@crtv_drctr) November 18, 2019
The WMPD then issued a rather sympathetic statement about the incident in question on social media. It reads:
The West Memphis Police Department would like to express our condolences for this family’s loss. 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.
Stopping short of accepting full responsibility for the unwanted police contact the intimation leaves no doubt, the department still believes if Brookshire had complied with officer commands she would not have been manhandled. Brookshire’s brother posted the following to Twitter:
HELP: Yesterday, my niece was killed in a tragic accident, hundreds of miles from home. As my family begins to grieve, a mere 7 days ahead of what was supposed to be her fifth birthday – we need help covering the costs of her funeral arrangements. https://t.co/kYbKYLANWd pic.twitter.com/4ZZXDpIl8C
— Richard. (@crtv_drctr) November 17, 2019
In truth, she did express her desire not to speak with the police, told them she was a resident at the hotel, showed them her key, and told them her daughter recently passed away. The whole encounter could have easily been prevented if the officers involved had not pressed the woman for identifying information which we already know they use to search for warrants.
They failed to actually listen to Brookshire and understand they were dealing with someone who was emotionally disturbed. Not only did they violate her 5th amendment rights to remain silent, but also her 4th and 14th amendment rights to unreasonable searches, and seizures. She will, no doubt be suing for the WMPD having violated her constitutional rights.
Brookshire and her family have set up a GoFundMe page to ask for help in dealing with the family’s loss.