Arkansas cops are claiming they had every right to abuse a grieving mother Sunday night because she had refused to identify herself when they came across her in the parking lot of the hotel where she was staying.
After all, they claim, there have been a rash of break-ins in the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn in West Memphis.
However, the woman’s family members said they spoke to management at the hotel and were told there had not been any break-ins for at least a month.
And even if there had been a rash of break-ins, Shawnda Brookshire was not doing anything to give West Memphis police a reasonable suspicion she was trying to break into a car.
She was simply walking in the well-lit hotel parking lot having a telephone conversation with the father of her daughter while wearing a hoodie in temperatures hovering around the mid-30s. That is not a reasonable suspicion that she was committing a crime no matter how hard police try to spin it.
A day earlier, Brookshire had lost her 4-year-old daughter, Nia Brookshire, while trying to do a good deed, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
St. Francis County Coroner Miles Kimble said Nia’s mother, Shawnda Brookshire, was driving on I-40 Saturday when she noticed a gas can attached to another SUV was leaking all over the road.
The mother pulled her Jeep Compass onto the shoulder around 7:20 a.m. to try to flag down the other car. According to state police, the vehicle was only partially in the inside shoulder, and the driver of the SUV, a GMC Savana, failed to see her Jeep and struck it.
The wreck killed Nia and injured another minor, the report states. Natacha Brookshire said the injured child was Nia’s half-brother, Ni’jaun.
The driver of the Savana was also injured, according to state police.
The family had been traveling from Ohio to Texas when Nia was killed on Saturday, so they remained in West Memphis to make funeral arrangements as other family members made their way to Arkansas to pay their respects to the child.
West Memphis police claimed she began cussing at them when they confronted her but the videos they released does not include audio during the initial 30 seconds so there is no way of confirming that.
They also claim that she began walking away from them when they pulled up which made them suspicious but the video shows she only moved back a bit when one cop began grabbing on her as she tried to show him the key to her room.
Once the audio goes on, we can hear Brookshire calling her mother for help because she realized they were intent on detaining her. By the time her family came out, she was already on the ground.
“Why is my sister on the ground,” demanded her brother, which prompted one of the cops to pull out his taser and threaten him with it.
Her brother, Richard Brookshire, co-founder of the Black Veterans Project, later took to Twitter to give his side of the story. Click here to read the entire thread.
The tweets went viral and West Memphis police responded by posting a statement on their Facebook page saying if she had only identified herself she would not have been abused. However, police later deleted that post, according to WMC 5 which was able to screenshot the statement posted below.
While Arkansas is a “stop and ID” state, police still need to have a reasonable suspicion that somebody is committing a crime in order for that person to be required to identify themselves.
Arkansas does have a loitering law which they like to use to criminalize people into handing over their identifications but that law requires a person to be lingering or prowling “in a public place or the premises of another without apparent reason and under circumstances that warrant alarm or concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.”
But the five videos released by the West Memphis Police Department on Tuesday show Brookshire was doing nothing to alarm anybody. Those videos can be viewed here. The above video has been shortened and edited.
Brookshire was eventually released with no charges. The family is demanding an apology.