An Alabama police department is coming under fire after a video was posted to Facebook showing Homewood police officers detaining a woman on the floor of a local Walmart in a case of mistaken identity after she refused a search of her purse.
According to police, the incident began after someone called them to report the theft of a purse out of her shopping cart while she shopped in the store. Homewood Police Officers arrived shortly after the call and began searching the store for the suspect when they came across Brenda Rivers, whom they claimed match the description of the suspect.
But the real suspect disappeared during the 30 minutes police were detaining Rivers.
As the video begins, about a dozen patrons are seen gathered around as Rivers is lying face down on the floor of the store being handcuffed. Her husband can be heard explaining to police that the two had just walked into the store to buy medicine and orange juice and had done nothing wrong.
Another woman in the crowd can also be heard saying, “They searched me too. They went through my purse, took everything out my purse.”
The unidentified lady continues to explain that the victim of the theft had already told police that the woman on the floor was not the person who stole her property.
But police continue to detain Rivers in handcuffs as one officer explains to her that she is being arrested for failure to comply, claiming she resisted. The argument continues as the crowd demands to know what Rivers failed to comply with.
“Step back! Step back! Step back! You’re going to be arrested for interfering with a police investigation…step back!” One officer begins demanding from the angry crowd, seeming to only make things worse.
“You wrong and you know you wrong,” the woman who was previously searched and a witness to the entire incident says.
“Because your officer walks over to the victim and asked her, before you even apprehended her. You walked over and asked her, and she said no. He never walked over to you and told you nothing. That is wrong! Oh my God, that is wrong!
“She’s going to jail, for now…failure to comply,” a cop says.
But the crowd wasn’t having it and they brought the victim back to reiterate that Rivers was not the person who stole her property.
“I’ve been telling them, it’s not her sir,” the victim explains again before being told by one of the officers, “I understand, I really do.”
But Rivers remains on the floor in handcuffs for another ten minutes while the argument continues.
Police responded to the video at a press conference held outside of the department. Lt. Eric Hampton told reporters that officers had approached Rivers after they received a call reporting a theft of credit cards and personal belongings inside the store.
“at that time the female and the officer had a brief encounter initially as far as investigating the felony theft. The female became un-compliant. The officer indicated to the female that she was being detained but was not at the time being arrested while he investigated the theft. The female failed to comply with his orders to cooperate, to give information. She again attempted to move and leave the area in which he asked her to stop, at which time the officer explained to Ms. Rivers that she was being detained but she was not under arrest. However, he had probable cause to stop her…once he advised her, he had the victim to come back to the store to identify her as maybe being possible involvement in this crime that he was investigating that he would then determine if she was going to be arrested or not. The failure to comply was what she was being detained for and that’s why she was basically detained at this point and she was placed in handcuffs.”
Hampton says the department will be conducting an internal investigation into the incident and will reviewing their policies and procedures. He apologized to the Rivers family as well as the patrons of the store who witnessed the incident.
The incident has led to protests where demonstrators lie on the floor at Homewood city hall for 30 minutes, which is the time Rivers was forced to lie on the floor.
Watch the Police Press Conference here: